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About this book

By virtue of a quiet revolution over nearly a hundred years, Britain has evolved into a home-owning society. The impact of this on British society has been barely understood, but it has helped to shape the Blair 'workfare' state and to draw Britain firmly towards the English-speaking world while distancing the country from other European nations.
Taking a policy-analysis approach and drawing from the burgeoning comparative literature, this textbook explores what has happened to British housing since 1900. Providing more than an account of British housing, the book reinterprets the housing system in a way that is sensitive to the historical and cultural contexts of British policy and society. Examining the nature of 'housing' and how it helps to shape society, Lowe sets British housing in its global context.
Written in an accessible style, Housing Policy Analysis leads the reader through the basic concepts to more challenging themes. It will be important reading for students of housing studies, social policy, public policy and applied social studies.

Table of Contents

1. Housing Policy Analysis

Abstract
It is no exaggeration to say that during course of the twentieth century British housing experienced a revolution. It was a quiet and long revolution, but its consequences transformed the structure and ownership of the nation’s housing stock, impacted dramatically on the economy and in recent decades has exerted a strong influence over the character of what has come to be known as the ‘post-industrial welfare state’. Although every country is in some way unique, some features of this development were very different from comparable nations in Europe and the wider group of OECD countries. This book is about what happened to British housing in the twentieth century, what the outcome was and, above all, why there was such dramatic change. The explanation requires not only a sensitivity to the historical and cultural context of the British case but also a discussion about the very nature of ‘housing’ itself and how it helps to shape the pattern of societies. The book is more, therefore, than an account of British housing, and one of its central arguments is that it is not possible truly to understand any one country in isolation from its more global context. If Britain is in some ways ‘different’ it must imply the questions ‘different from what and why?’
Stuart Lowe

2. The New Governance of Housing

Abstract
The aim of this chapter is to describe the changing pattern of housing governance in Britain; how housing is owned and managed, how its various elements inter-relate and how these changes relate to wider political developments — because, of course, they are not unique to ‘housing’ but are part of a much larger political project. The default for much of the discussion is the English case but the devolution agenda highlights the significant and arguably growing differences between the constituent nations of the UK. Detailed accounts of the differences in housing governance between these countries is beyond the scope of this chapter. The aim is to provide a broad steer about the direction and pattern of the current position.
Stuart Lowe

3. Housing, Home and Society

Abstract
The idea of ‘home’ is universally and instinctively understood. Home is the place where we are most able to be ourselves, where we accumulate the clutter of daily life, tend to and protect our most treasured possessions and where we invariably experience, for better or worse, our most intimate and deeply felt relationships. As the well-known aphorism has it, ‘Home is where the heart is’, implying that it may not be a fixed place and not necessarily relating to a dwelling place. People who have lived abroad, for decades, may refer to the idea of ‘coming home’, a return to an intuitively understood haven in a hostile world. This, then, is the first lesson about the concept of home; that it is defined not only on its own terms but also in relation to a wider society ‘out there’. ‘Home’ and ‘not home’ are the opposite sides of a single social entity.
Stuart Lowe

4. Housing Need

Abstract
By the year 2000, the UK’s housing stock had risen from a mere 6.8 million in 1900 to over 24.8 million dwellings. Virtually all the Dickensian slums had been cleared in two waves of slum clearance (in the late 1930s and between the mid-1950s and 1960s). The massive growth in the housing stock was largely a consequence of the rise in household numbers and was produced by a combination of rising real incomes — for higher-income groups could buy their new space — and for those unable to afford market access, of council housing, in its heyday as desirable as any other form of provision for a wide variety of social groups, as we saw in Chapter 3. Together, home ownership and council housing brought a separate ‘decent home’, the frequently cited objective of twentieth-century housing policy, within reach of the overwhelming majority of the population, by about the end of the 1960s.
Stuart Lowe

5. Housing and Social Exclusion

Abstract
The idea of social exclusion is not a new one and has a provenance deeply embedded in the policy analysis literature. The recent use of the words has been contested but seems to have had its modern incarnation from within the EU. Rather than nations admitting to poverty the term ‘social exclusion’ became a surrogate concept (Room, 1995). As the great English prose writer and social commentator George Orwell said. ‘When there is a gap between one’s real world and one’s declared aims, one turns instinctively to long words’ (Orwell, 1954: 363). ‘Social exclusion’, in Orwell’s sense, is a concept that has the potential to obfuscate and obscure reality as much as it does to clarify it. The term has, however, come to have an important place in the vocabulary of the New Labour ‘Third Way’ and almost the first initiative taken by the newly elected government in 1997 was to establish a Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) inside the Cabinet Office, the Prime Minister’s personal domain. Two of the three initial topics of concern to the unit were housing issues — the problem of the so-called ‘worst estates’ and rough sleepers, the third being single parenthood.
Stuart Lowe

6. Tenure Re-Structuring

Abstract
Britain underwent a dramatic restructuring of its housing tenure pattern during the course of the twentieth century. Why this should be the case requires explanation. Its significance is not only in the transformation of property rights and financial gains and losses in the housing stock but also to wider society. As Kemeny has shown, different configurations of housing tenure impact on urban form and welfare state development. ‘Home owning societies’, for example, are more likely to have private insurance-based, workfare forms of welfare provision (Kemeny, 1981). The scale of tenure restructuring in Britain over the twentieth century should make us vigilant for evidence of these wider issues. Looked at in this way ‘housing’ is not simply an accumulated stock of dwellings but is also a source, or at least a catalyst, to social change. It is something of a paradox that such an immovable entity as a stock of dwellings could be the focal point of dynamic social change. The explanation and development of this issue is discussed in detail in Chapter 10.
Stuart Lowe

7. The Sustainability of Home Ownership

Abstract
Over the course of seven decades in the twentieth century home ownership replaced private renting as the predominant housing tenure. By the dawn of the twenty-first century Britain had caught up with the other English-speaking nations in the OECD group and indeed, with nearly 70 per cent of households living in owner occupied property, was at the upper end of the English-speaking cluster. The major reason for this transition was the underlying improvement in incomes as the twentieth century progressed, but policy choices also played a significant role. Home ownership became more diffused across the social spectrum, drawing into it the vast majority of heads of households with non-manual and skilled manual occupational backgrounds. Home ownership is, however, still not an option for millions of households, about a third of the total, many of whom cannot afford its cost and, with the aid of housing benefit, live in rental accommodation. Is this, then, the more or less stable state of British housing? The aim of this chapter is to answer this question and to examine the consequences of the conversion of Britain into a home owning society. The three main issues here concern the impact of the growth of home ownership on the macroeconomy, its influence in reshaping the structure of the British social system and, finally, the impact of Britain’s conversion to home ownership on the welfare state. The central point is that it is almost inconceivable that such a major reshaping of the housing system spread, as we saw in Chapter 6, over nearly a whole century of change, would not impact on other aspects of the political, economic and social systems.
Stuart Lowe

8. The Residualization of Rental Housing

Abstract
It will be recalled that the division of rental housing into two unconnected systems is a core of the explanation about Britain as a ‘home owning society’. On the one hand stands the experience of the private rented sector (PRS) with its century-long history of decline and on the other hand is the legacy of council housing which grew to accommodate nearly one-third of households at its zenith in the early 1970s but then it too declined to about half that level currently. The story of the last decades of the twentieth century is of these two residual rental housing tenures unable to compete against home ownership, the preferred option of almost everyone, including most tenants should they ever have the opportunity to buy.
Stuart Lowe

9. Comparative Housing

Abstract
Comparative themes are implicit in much of this text. For example, attention was drawn in Chapter 3 to the powerful influence that Victorian domestic culture had in fusing the historical links between a cluster of English-speaking, home owning societies. The consequences of globalization — with its themes of broadening, stretching and increased velocity — for the British state and the governance of British housing were discussed in Chapter 2. Finally, the idea that British housing is in some ways ‘different’ from most of its European neighbours can be sensibly argued only in a comparative context. In this chapter the emphasis is on the broad issues which fall under the heading of ‘comparative housing’, of how to analyse and conceptualize the relationship between different countries and so to evaluate Britain’s position in the wider context of her European neighbours and those countries within the English-speaking domain. We have seen how, at the turn of the twenty-first century, Britain had matured as a nation of homeowners and simultaneously entered a period in which the break-up of council housing was being engineered. The structure of British housing — at least in terms of its tenure pattern — seems to be settling after nearly a century of change. In this broad-brush context, a key issue is to characterize British housing in this new post-modern condition. Has it become more ‘Anglicized’, through aligning more strongly with the English-speaking cluster and in a sense returned to its roots, or through the break-up of the monolithic state housing sector is it in the process of becoming more ‘European’?
Stuart Lowe

10. The Significance of Housing

Abstract
This chapter draws together evidence and ideas scattered across the book as to how we can understand British housing policy, how it is made and delivered and how the British case should be ‘read’ in relation to comparable societies. It was readily apparent in Chapter 9 that there were significant differences between even the housing systems of the wider European nations, EU and non-EU countries, although it was possible to discern underlying patterns which group nations together and help explain how — and, crucially, why — they differ or where they fit into a wider family of nations or cluster. Perhaps above all else the evidence from this book shows that purely state centred approaches to explaining these divergences are no longer tenable. A major theme of the book has been that globalization processes have increasingly impacted on the configuration of housing systems, in part because the state, certainly the British state, has been restructured under these new circumstances. As we saw in Chapter 2, the ‘hollowing out’ of the state under the impact of the transnational economic order was a major task and accomplishment of the Thatcher/Major and Blair governments. The new institutional literature is defined by its capacity to capture this wide-ranging agenda and is especially suited to help explain why different policies develop in different societies. As was shown in Chapter 9, middle-range social theory helps overcome the limitations of juxtapositional research in which the focus is boiled down to the lowest common denominator. It is precisely because institutionalist approaches engage with the wider social context of the policy-making process that it is so powerful.
Stuart Lowe
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