Houston is infamous for its free-market approach to development and lack of zoning regulations, featuring a sprawling landscape with one of the most severe shortages of affordable housing in the US for a large metropolitan area. Hurricane Harvey revealed the limits of the city’s infrastructure and drainage systems, with many citing this same hunger for development as a factor in the devastating floods that are occurring more often in recent years. However, even as impermeable concrete replaces wetlands and prairies, and booming development displaces entire communities wholesale with few affordable alternatives, Houston is still held up as a model for development for the rest of the nation. Recently, the issue of the growing homeless encampments in Houston, or “tent cities,” dominates local news and discourse. These simultaneous tensions related to the basic needs of housing and shelter, playing out on the local landscape, have the potential to further shape our nation’s attitudes around precarity, access, and belonging for its citizens.
Regina Agu is an artist and writer based in Houston, TX, whose recent projects focus on the complex relationships between the landscape and communities of color. She is currently a 2018 University of Houston College of the Arts Center for Art and Social Engagement + Project Row Houses Fellow. reginaagu.com | @sun_ria