Rural Exodus and Housing Crisis in Italy, 1950–1970

The Rural Population of Southern Europe Attack the Cities
By Flavia Cumoli

The present article deals with Italy’s housing crises after the Second World War and in the 1960s, which signalled the onset of the Italian “economic miracle.” In the immediate aftermath of the war, the crisis amounted to a housing shortage caused by wartime destruction and social stagnation in the fascist period, demographic growth and a considerable rural exodus. The situation gradually evolved into a social crisis shaped by economic choices, as liberalism was heightened in the construction sector by state subsidies. Construction was effectively targeted at the middle class, so that working class residents were de facto segregated in substandard dwellings known under various designations. Opening with a summary of the many dimensions of the housing problem, the paper explores “crisis spaces,” deprived areas and segregation processes, by focusing on three archetypal case studies: Matera’s rural districts and Sassi, Rome’s Borgate and Milan’s Corre. The article finally tackles urban struggles and the role played by housing issues in the emergence of protest movements from 1968 onwards, as allegations of misappropriation of public funds against the administration began to hit the headlines.

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