At Home in America: An Examination of Motels and Trailers as Low-Income Housing on Commercial Thoroughfares

By Amanda Marquit

Through my work on understanding and elucidating low-income American housing types in the private sector, this thesis discusses modes of providing housing that are prevalent though ignored. I focus on two major forms of “alternative housing:” the motel and the trailer, as well as the landscape on which they are located, namely the commercial thoroughfare. In understanding how these housing types function within a landscape of blacktop, parking lots, and general sprawl, I explore the transition between the old American downtown and the use of the commercial thoroughfare today. By discussing phenomenon of suburban “homelessness” and poverty, I challenge accepted notions of suburbs as free from these apparent “urban” issues. The commercial thoroughfare, which connects suburb and city, has become home to a marginalized population of the homeless and the very poor, though this poverty is hidden in an environment designed for the scale of the automobile rather than that of the pedestrian. Finally, I posit that the general distaste for public housing in suburban areas and the lack of large-scale planning for more pedestrian-oriented roadside development has led to this current condition with little hope of change in the near future.