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Housing allowances in comparative perspective

Housing allowances in comparative perspective

Edited by Peter A. Kemp
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    Housing allowances in comparative perspective
    Book Description:

    Housing allowances have become increasingly important policy instruments in the advanced welfare states. Operating at the interface between housing and social security policy, they provide means-tested assistance with housing costs for low income households. In the present era of fiscal austerity, such schemes are seen by many governments as a more efficient way to help tenants than rent controls or 'bricks and mortar' subsidies to landlords. Yet as the contributions to this collection show, housing allowances are not without problems of their own, especially in relation to housing consumption and work incentives. This book examines income-related housing allowance schemes in advanced welfare states as well as in transition economies of central and eastern Europe. Drawing on experiences in ten countries, including Britain, Sweden, Germany, Australia and the USA, it presents new evidence on the origins and design of housing allowances; their role within housing and social security policy; their impact on affordability; and current policy debates and recent reforms. Unique in it's depth of coverage, Housing Allowances in Comparative Perspective is essential reading for researchers, students and lecturers in social policy, housing and urban studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-244-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-vi)
  3. List of tables and figures
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Peter A. Kemp
  5. Notes on contributors
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. ONE Housing allowances in context
    (pp. 1-16)
    Peter A. Kemp

    Most of the advanced welfare states are committed to ensuring that housing is affordable to ordinary citizens. Shelter is not only a necessity, but for most households it is also the largest single item in their budget. For low–income households in particular, the ratio of housing expenditure to income can be high. In fact, most of the advanced welfare states provide, in one form or another, assistance with housing expenditure. Although the aims and instruments employed vary from one country to another, a common concern is to ensure that ordinary people can afford to occupy decent housing at a...

  7. TWO Housing allowances and the restructuring of the Australian welfare state
    (pp. 17-38)
    Kath Hulse

    Housing allowances have become increasingly important in Australia since the early 1980s, both in terms of the number of households assisted and government expenditure. Increasing reliance by governments on housing allowances has not been the result of an explicit process of policy development. Instead, two different types of housing allowances developed gradually and incrementally within the housing assistance and income support systems. Housing allowances are specific to either the public or private rental sectors and are the product of considerable dualism in rental market structuring (Kemeny, 1995).

    This chapter traces the development of both types of housing allowances and examines...

  8. THREE The New Zealand experience of housing allowances
    (pp. 39-60)
    David C. Thorns

    Understanding the development of housing allowances within a particular nation state requires a historical perspective and a consideration of the way in which allowances are linked to state policy and practice. Further, current policy instruments arise out of both past decisions made and contemporary debates and understandings (Lowe, 2005). The history of New Zealand housing policy since the 1950s shows it has gone through a number of stages. This chapter tracks these changes to illustrate the changing position of housing allowances and their place within the overall housing policies of successive governments.

    In the 1950s and 1960s, the dominant thrust...

  9. FOUR Canadian housing allowances
    (pp. 61-86)
    Marion Steele

    Housing allowances in Canada are offered by only four provinces. The absence of a national allowance should not be too surprising in a country where there is really no such thing as national policy for low–income housing. Instead there is a set of housing policies, one for each province. This has been especially true since the federal government all but vacated this area in the 1990s. It first terminated all programmes for building new social housing, as low–and mixed–income housing is called in Canada. Then it transferred the management of most existing subsidy commitments to the provinces....

  10. FIVE Housing allowances American style: the Housing Choice Voucher programme
    (pp. 87-104)
    Sandra J. Newman

    In the US, housing allowances take the form of housing vouchers. Whereas housing allowances are typically unrestricted cash transfers earmarked for housing, housing vouchers are earmarked for housing but have restrictions. Put simply, a voucher is essentially a promissory note from the government — with strings attached. It allows a low–income household to lease a physically decent private market unit that is rented for an amount considered reasonable for modest, existing, standard rental units in the housing market area, typically the county or metropolitan area.

    Unlike housing allowances in most other countries included in this volume, housing vouchers in the...

  11. SIX Housing Benefit in Britain: a troubled history and uncertain future
    (pp. 105-134)
    Peter A. Kemp

    Great Britain has provided income–related assistance with housing costs since the 1930s, but it is only since the 1970s that it has assumed central importance within housing policy. It has also become a major component of social security expenditure in recent decades. At present, housing allowances in Britain take two major forms. The first is a scheme called Housing Benefit, which provides help for low–income tenants. The second is known as Income Support for Mortgage Interest and is available to home buyers who are in receipt of social assistance. Housing Benefit is by far the most important of...

  12. SEVEN Housing allowances in France
    (pp. 135-158)
    Madhu Satsangi

    For most of the past 60 years, France has had two housing allowance regimes, one for market–priced housing and one linked to the country’s intricate system of housing capital subsidies. Neither allowance regime has paid 100% of housing costs. How has this system evolved? What are its market impacts and distributional consequences? This chapter presents a review of the main features of the French system of income–related housing allowances; it identifies the context of that system in the country’s welfare state and then looks at the design of the system and how it is intended to operate. The...

  13. EIGHT Housing allowances in Germany
    (pp. 159-192)
    Stefan Kofner

    The social policy dimension of housing is characterised by society’s (shifting) idea of the acceptable minimum level of adequate housing in terms of quality and quantity. Housing policy aims to enable everyone to realise these basic housing standards independent of their personal income and other prevailing circumstances (for example the local rent level, number of children). Housing allowances —Wohngeldin German — come into play whenever income is insufficient to enable the household to obtain accommodation that meets a minimum housing standard. As a tied income transfer, it is an incentive towards a higher individual housing consumption.

    Wohngeld is not, of...

  14. NINE Housing allowances in the Netherlands: the struggle for budgetary controllability
    (pp. 193-214)
    Hugo Priemus and Marja Elsinga

    After the Second World War, bricks–and–mortar subsidies and rent control were introduced to ensure rented housing remained affordable in the Netherlands. The social rented sector was the main instrument for national government to stimulate housing production and safeguard affordable housing. In recent decades, a gradual shift has taken place from subsidised rents to personal subsidies for households: housing allowances. The shift from subsidised rents towards market-based rental is still ongoing and the housing allowance scheme has developed into the core instrument in Dutch housing policy (about 56% of the national housing budget). This shift did not take place...

  15. TEN Housing allowance systems in Sweden
    (pp. 215-238)
    Per Åhrén

    Government support for housing expenditure has a long tradition in Sweden. In 1936 a means–tested housing expenditure support was introduced for families with at least three children. The support was combined with an investment support to the housing where these families lived. Originally, only rented housing was eligible. Housing expenditure support to pensioners was introduced later. In 1946 the government decided to introduce a special means–tested local government housing expenditure supplement, in addition to the existing general housing expenditure supplement, which was an addition to the general pension. The local government housing expenditure supplement was not compulsory for...

  16. ELEVEN Housing allowances in the Czech Republic in comparative perspective
    (pp. 239-264)
    Martin Lux and Petr Sunega

    The aim of this chapter is to describe the development and functioning of housing allowances in the Czech Republic. After a short introductory description of the Czech housing system and policy, an evaluation of the allowance model is provided in two steps: first, by measuring the effectiveness of the allowance; and, second, by comparing the Czech model with the approaches applied in other transitional countries.

    Under the communist regime, housing in the Czech Republic was subject to tight state control. With the exception of family houses, the entire privately owned housing stock was nationalised; subsequently, the creation of new housing...

  17. TWELVE Housing allowances in the advanced welfare states
    (pp. 265-288)
    Peter A. Kemp

    Introduction This book has examined the context, role, design and impacts of income–related housing allowances in a variety of countries. Chapters Two to Ten looked at nine advanced welfare states, while Chapter Eleven explored the experience of the Czech Republic and made comparisons with several other transition economies. This final chapter draws upon the preceding chapters to reflect upon the role of housing allowances in the advanced welfare states. The first section describes the broad welfare regime and housing market context of the ten main countries covered in the book. The second section compares important features of incomerelated assistance...

  18. Index
    (pp. 289-295)