Racializing the concept of ‘housing otherness’:

The effects of temporary housing policies on squatters in Rome

Chiara Cacciotti

Published in Issue 5.1 // The Long Read

Keywords: Housing precarity, squatting, racialization, Rome, temporariness


This paper explores the long-standing relationship in Rome between socio-cultural diversity and the temporary nature of low-income housing solutions. I argue that that this phenomenon began long before recent neoliberal trends and the global post-2008 crisis, and instead emerged from the gradual development of a moral and racialized understanding of housing as a ‘social award’. This has created a specific social category known as ‘housing otherness’, which includes migrants and Italian squatters who are experiencing severe housing distress. This exclusionary approach towards the most ‘diverse’ sections of the population in Rome can be traced back to the inception of public housing in Italy during the 1920s. The paper aims to provide a historical account of this process and demonstrate how it is based on the limited availability of residency and settling as a commodity. I also introduce the grassroots Roman housing rights movements and highlights their efforts to challenge the notion that residency and settling should be seen as something that is earned or deserved rather than as basic human rights.


Chiara Cacciotti is an Anthropologist and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Polytechnic University of Turin (DIST) as part of the research team working on the ERC project “Inhabiting Radical Housing”. Her research interests include housing precarity, squatting, cosmopolitan enclaves and urban liminalities.

Download PDF