A pair of headlines the past two weeks illustrated the gruesome underbelly of the urban housing crisis. Last Wednesday night in the Bronx two young homeless sisters, aged 2 and 1, were found dead after a malfunctioning radiator in the room they shared caused steam to spew into the room inflicting severe burns on the girls. The building, part of the cluster-site program whereby the city houses homeless people in privately home buildings, had 26 open violations of the housing-maintenance code and multiple dwelling laws according to records from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The cluster-site program, which current Mayor de Blasio had pledged to end, has been oft-criticized for being both expensive and dangerous as a 2015 report by the city’s Investigation Department showed numerous buildings in the program with building code and fire safety violations. A few days earlier on the opposite coast in Oakland a fire broke out at a warehouse party killing 36 people in what is being called the deadliest fire Oakland’s history. The warehouse, housing more than 100 people, largely an artist community, provided affordable rent in a city becoming increasingly unaffordable. A report from Oakland’s Housing Cabinet estimates that rents increased 68 percent between 2007 and 2015 as Oakland has gotten sucked into Silicon Valley’s orbit. City officials have admitted that no building code inspector had stepped foot in the warehouse in at least 30 years. According to the LA Times the building wasn’t listed in the fire department’s database of buildings requiring inspections. The aftermath of the fire has triggered a surge of warehouse inspections in the area that has artist worried about being evicted further accelerating gentrification. Fire of course has long been the scourge of the expendable population and an ally of capital. Who could forget the images of Jimmy carter walking through the streets of the burned out Bronx in the late 1970s or Howard Cosell’s commentary of the blaze caught on camera during the 1977 World Series? A perfect, if predictable, storm of budget cuts combined with faulty ‘systems analysis’, brought on by the city’s partnership with RAND, that called for a more efficient streamlined fire-department (i.e. less trucks and stations would equal better service), all aligning with the ‘planned shrinkage’ floating in urban planning circles at the time, saw the withdrawal of fire houses from the Bronx (while sparing more well off areas of the city which had the clout to resist the absurdity). The inevitable fire epidemic spread. For all the mythology about arson, until 1975, the epidemic already well under way, the percentage of fires attributed to arson never rose above 1.1 percent. At its peak in the late 1970s arson still made up less than 7 percent most of which occurred in already burned out buildings. Fires led to abandonment: in their book A Plague on Your Houses Deborah and Roderick Wallace calculated that fires displaced two million people citywide, leaving the Bronx open for redevelopment. SoHo holding out for another national chain or bank branch, or in the vast number of empty apartments on Manhattan’s East Side used as piggy banks, speculation, or summer homes.