Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Student Homelessness: Sheltering Our Future: An Adaptable Approach to Underutilised City Spaces

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Version 2 2021-12-07, 00:58
Version 1 2021-12-06, 23:09
posted on 2021-12-07, 00:58 authored by Ramos, Caryl

The increasing housing demands from population growth creates a persistent housing shortage and unaffordability in our cities. Students are one demographic that is dramatically affected as they move closer to their education provider for study. The student influx at the start of the semester creates a large demand in the already inadequate housing market. Students with a limited budget have reduced accommodation options and this consequently drives many into a state of homelessness. A study from University of Otago measures that over a quarter of New Zealand’s homeless population are students (Amore, 2016). This considerable number of students are living in cars, tents, couch-surfing and sleeping rough for weeks during their studies. The desperate situation impinges on the student’s health and well-being and thus their academic performance.  In this context, the scope of this research focuses on the requirements of homeless tertiary students in the urban setting. Their vulnerability, insecurity and distress are explored to provide direction to solutions that will alleviate the existing problems of their insufficient living environments. As proximity to the education providers and amenities are key factors, this thesis examines underutilised and leftover spaces within the city as opportunities for inhabitation, and to create efficient use of urban space. Currently, there are successful examples of activating overlooked laneways into vibrant spaces. However, these transformations rely on the activities in the lane and the interventions are largely landscaping and installations. By investigating the successful regeneration of previously undesirable and neglected spaces through architectural re-imagination, this thesis identify laneways to be a potential site to the urgent need for shelters.  The architectural experiments and design development are informed by the combination of site challenges and programme to form an overall design-led research. The thesis tests how temporary modular design has a significant role in the design of economic and adaptable solutions for the increasing issue of homelessness. This establishes that through a critical design, we may shelter those in desperate need within the urban context. The architecture provides a safe environment that is empathetic to its users and the larger urban scale while also creating a statement and awareness to homelessness. The thesis concludes with the design framework for a single test site and assesses its suitability for future application to other leftover spaces in the city.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Architecture (Professional)

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


de Sylva, Shenuka