Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

The collapse of LA’s Skid Row Housing Trust reveals a lack of investment in the maintenance of supportive housing properties.

‘One of Skid Row’s largest housing providers faces financial implosion,’ ran a headline in the Los Angeles Times in early February. Prospects looked bleak for the Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT), a non‑profit property developer and pioneer in providing housing and services for Los Angeles’ unhoused people. 

A month later, a second article in the newspaper reported appalling conditions in the older single‑room occupancy (SRO) properties: mouldering corridors, broken plumbing, waste and hoarding. There are 29 buildings in the organisation’s portfolio. A little more than half of these are permanent supportive housing (PSH) designed by top architecture firms, while the rest are SROs, constructed in the early 20th century and serving the city’s lowest‑income populations. 

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Images of the havoc that natural disasters wreak upon the built environment are part of our cultural consciousness. They have been since the birth of photography. Yet the past decade or so has seen a worrisome convergence: the parallel increases in the ubiquity of media technology and the number and severity of devastating storms, which are arguably linked to climate change. Katrina: drowned New Orleans freeways and neighborhoods (the latter re-created in Beyoncé’s 2016 “Formation” music video). Sandy: a darkened Manhattan shot by Iwan Baan. Harvey: Houston’s graybrown floodwaters captured by drone photography. Irma: cell phone footage of a battered port town in the British Virgin Islands.

The degree to which the two are connected—and the importance of that link—was most acute when Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, cutting out power and destroying telecommunications infrastructure. The Washington Post even attributed the Trump administration’s delayed response in part to not seeing the wreckage. Read More …