2018 National Planning Conference

Crafting Mi Casa: Latino Informal Housing

Saturday, April 21, 2018 from 1 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. CDT

Location: R02

CM | 1.25

Cost: Included in Registration

Activity Type: Educational Sessions

Activity ID: NPC188054


  • Highlights of the Latino vernacular, a culturally relevant housing form found throughout the United States in small towns, border regions, and cities — and imbued with social, cultural, and economic values
  • How planners and housing activists can be more supportive of Latino communities as they creatively contribute to producing more a robust affordable-housing market
  • How to recognize the need for more flexible housing-related policies and programs to address constraints typical of Latino communities, such as smaller lot sizes, lack of secure tenure, and lack of funding


Latinos renovate their homes based on imagination, needs, and know-how — sometimes without proper permits. This cultural practice has been happening in the Unites States for decades, producing innovative housing typologies and construction practices, redefining the basic dwelling unit, and contributing to socially and economically resilient communities. Despite its ingenuity, Latino informal housing development runs into considerable urban planning obstacles. This panel explores ways that rigid municipal zoning codes imbued with middle-class values render informal units illegal. How can planners become part of the process of creating organic, informal housing to reduce the rising numbers of tragedies resulting from fires in substandard garage conversions, underscoring legitimate safety concerns? How can planners ease tensions across communities when NIMBYism stifles efforts to build accessory units in single-family residential zones? Explore how increased housing densities help alleviate housing shortages and increase affordability and how socially activated front yards are associated with increased social and economic resilience and walkability. Planners can learn a lot from the lessons of Latino informal housing practices. This panel will engage in a lively discussion about the visual, spatial, policy, regulatory, resiliency, and transit implications Latino informal housing practice has in planning in multicultural communities throughout the United States.

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Session Speakers

Michael Larice
University of Utah
Salt Lake City, UT

James T. Rojas
Place It!
Alhambra, CA

Jonathan P. Bell
L.A. County Regional Planning
Los Angeles, CA

Cecilia Giusti
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX

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