Malleable homes and mutual possessions: caring and sharing in extended family households as a resource for survival
Families in contemporary urban settings in the Minority World face multiple interrelated and complex predicaments. Austerity policies aimed at reducing government budget deficits have eroded basic service provision and harshened economic outlooks in ways that place added stress on family life (Hall 2016). The spectre of environmental crisis looms large, and a suite of policies is increasingly targeting households as change agents (Head et al. 2013). Meanwhile, within cities, housing is becoming ever more unaffordable. Demand for new dwellings has outstripped population growth due to a confluence of socio-demographic trends that contribute to shrinking average household sizes: population ageing, high rates of divorce and delayed age of family formation (Wulff et al. 2004). In Australia, where the authors live and work, one-quarter of households now contain just one person (ABS 2012). Similar socio-demographic processes, with associated urban, social, sustainability and spatial planning implications, have unfurled throughout Europe, the United Kingdom and North America (Buzar et al. 2005, Rérat 2012). Families are at once subject to such intersecting external pressures, and are key “agents of urban transformation” (Buzar et al. 2005: 413) with influence over environmental and socio-economic trends. Crises are multiple, and are often mutually reinforcing, or held in tension, as when trade-offs emerge between financial (or temporal) poverty, caring duties, and desires to reduce environmental burden (Gibson et al. 2013). Families are a fundamental, everyday social unit where such tensions are played out and resolved.