No Place like Home: Rooming Houses in Contemporary Urban Context Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • In this paper we connect existing work on rooming houses to literature dealing with the meaningful nature of ‘home’ and its impact on individuals' health and social well-being. We then examine the extent to which rooming houses provide low-income tenants with ‘homes’, drawing from in-depth interviews with rooming-house tenants living in Hamilton, a city of 450 000 people in southern Ontario, Canada. Our analysis raises concerns about the capacity of rooming houses to provide affordable and stable accommodation. Poor living conditions and poor relations with rooming-house landlords worked directly against the capacity of rooms to offer private, controllable spaces and a degree of ontological security. Analysis also raised concerns about rooming houses as sites for social relations. Many respondents saw rooming houses as unpredictable and sometimes unhealthy social spaces, forcing them to seek other environments to cultivate and sustain relationships with friends and family. In general, respondents' experiences point to the shortcomings of rooming houses as ‘home’ environments, with implications for the health and social lives of the tenant population. Conceptual and policy implications are discussed in conclusion.

publication date

  • March 2005