Tatooine Under Fire

Kanye West's affordable housing prototypes may have to be demolished

Buildings in Tunisia that were used as a set for Tatooine in the first Star Wars. Some have compared the buildings to Kanye West's development in Calabasas, California. (yovanson/Wikimedia Commons)

Kanye West had big plans to shake up the development market with a new affordable housing community, but it seems like the dream might be short-lived. News of the project in Calabasas, California broke just last month, but TMZ, who also obtained first images of the development from a Los Angeles County Public Works inspector, is reporting that state authorities are threatening its demolition if West does not comply with construction permit laws by September 15. 

West, who identifies with the pseudonym Yeezy, has demonstrated his interest in residential architecture and the housing market before, establishing the studio Yeezy Home and unveiling renderings of a stark concrete affordable housing complex in 2018. On a 300-acre forested plot of land in Calabasas, near West and Kim Kardashian’s shared home, his latest endeavor took a less conventional route. Writing for Forbes last month, Zack O’Malley Greenburg compared the prototypes for the development to Tatooine settlements from the first Star Wars movie, which in turn were inspired by vernacular housing design in Tunisia. While images of the interiors of the homes have not been released, it is clear from Greenburg’s account and photos shared online that they are igloo-like in form, with wooden skeletal frames “dozens of feet tall.” According to the photos released by TMZ, that description appears to have been accurate; they show rounded domes framed in timber and slightly sunken into the ground, with holes cut in the top to let in natural light.



Since the inception of the project, though, West’s foray into affordable housing has been mired in local controversy. At least two of his neighbors complained about construction noise, prompting state inspectors to pay the site a visit. While they were initially told that the structures were intended to be temporary and thus did not need a permit for permanent construction, inspectors later returned and noticed the homes’ concrete foundations. Concerned that West and his property managers were building something more lasting, they issued a citation last week that requires West to apply for approval from the city within 45 days or dismantle the buildings altogether. Although West and his team reportedly claimed that the foundations were simply added for increased stability, not longevity, it is unclear what West’s next steps will be.

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