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Urban informality in the Global North: (il)legal status and housing strategies of Ghanaian migrants in New York City

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Different legal statuses of migrants are known to affect housing opportunities in the destination cities. The research explores the housing journeys of Ghanaian migrants in the Bronx in New York City to understand the processes by which poor documented and undocumented migrants access housing, and explores the role of legal status in housing allocation. Relying on qualitative data collected through 55 in-depth interviews with migrants, the study argues that legal status does not necessarily determine Ghanaian migrants’ access to housing. Instead, the findings suggest that undocumented migrants report better housing outcomes compared to their documented counterparts. This is organised through urban informality enabled by social networks in the Bronx’s ethnic enclave. The paper argues that, rather than legal status, the strength of one’s social ties in the Ghanaian migrant community regulates access to housing. Complicit actors, including profit-seeking providers and indifferent public authorities, allow the informal processes of housing allocation to operate. The paper calls attention to the relationship between immigration status and housing informality in the Global North and sheds light on the hidden, informal sub-markets that migrants create and occupy.



urban informality, housing strategies, low-income migrants, Ghanaians, New York City

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International Journal of Housing Policy

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Informa UK Limited


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