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The housing debate

The housing debate

Stuart Lowe
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  • Book Info
    The housing debate
    Book Description:

    The emergence of Britain as a fully fledged home-owning society at the end of the 20th century has major implications for how houses are used not just as a home but as an asset. The key debate in this important and timely book is whether social policy and people's homes should be so closely connected, especially when housing markets are so volatile. It will be essential reading for all students and practitioners of housing and those concerned with how social and public policy is being shaped in the 21st century.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-274-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. List of tables and figures
    (pp. vi-vi)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)

    The critical examination of housing policy has tended to be marginalised. Insufficient attention has been given to the interactions between housing and other aspects of human welfare. There has been a tendency for housing to be regarded as simply a commodity supplied by the market, with a limited need for residual policies for those who have difficulty in participating as market actors. This marginalisation is a reflection of the perspectives of powerful political and economic actors. Within the government machine, housing policy responsibilities have moved confusingly between Whitehall departments over the years, and in any case much decision making of...

  3. 1 The foundations
    (pp. 1-36)

    The significance of housing to people’s welfare and well-being – having a roof over our heads – is hard to beat in terms of significance. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights lists housing as being an essential right necessary for health and well-being and Article 12 notes that the home is a private sanctuary in which citizens must be free from undue interference of their privacy (UNGA, 1948). Home is the central focus of most people’s lives, where we keep our clutter, build our closest relationships and in many ways define who we are as individuals (see...

  4. 2 The idea of housing policy: the crisis of the late-Victorian housing market
    (pp. 37-52)

    This chapter draws on the institutionalist approach to explain the sources of modern housing policy and shows the impact that housing policy had in helping to shape society. Its intention is as much conceptual as it is ‘historical’. Understanding how and why societies change is the most complex task of the social sciences. As outlined in Chapter One, recent thinking suggests that in order to understand the here and now we need to discover the long cultural roots that underlie our social systems (Pierson, 2004). This same stream of work also shows that the impact of first decisions and even...

  5. 3 The birth of the home-owning society: the interwar years (1918–39)
    (pp. 53-78)

    As in so many aspects of social and political life, the traumatic events of the First World War jolted Britain out of its Edwardian complacency. The threat of Bolshevism and revolutionary politics was looming on the Continent, and the British government was increasingly concerned about threats to the war effort from a radicalised workforce, a large part of which was engaged in arms manufacture. One alarming manifestation of this was a series of rent strikes organised by women working in armaments production in Glasgow. Landlord and tenant relations were already strained by changes to Scottish law on rent arrears and...

  6. 4 Home-ownership comes of age: the post-war decades (1945–79)
    (pp. 79-104)

    The connection between housing and welfare state development and change entered a revolutionary phase after the Second World War. New ideas about the future of the UK emerged from the traumas of war. This is a point that has been emphasised throughout the book; that housing policy and how it connects to wider welfare concerns are shaped by ideas, in this case by the broadly accepted parameters within which the state can act. The policy process and decision-making always occur within a framework of ideas, sometimes referred to as a paradigm (see Heffernan, 2002). Although not uncontested, the major political...

  7. 5 The post-industrial economy and housing
    (pp. 105-134)

    This chapter considers the macro-level forces that combined to shape a remarkable period of change between the 1970s and 1990s. We need to stand back from the detail of housing policy to see the bigger picture. This involves both relatively short-term changes, but also some of the factors at work over thelongue durée. Sometimes the narrative needs to account for the layering in of key factors, in this case how the housing stock matured over the course of the 20th century, putting down foundations on which current developments are based – the tectonic plates of society, to rejoin Pierson’s...

  8. 6 Housing and welfare states
    (pp. 135-166)

    The recent banking crisis revealed in a very alarming way the extent to which the global financial markets are integrated, particularly through the securities market and the international banking system. The trigger to the banking crisis of 2007–09 was the massive scale of bad debts accumulated in the US sub-prime mortgage market and serious errors made by credit-rating agencies about the price of risky loans (Muellbauer and Murphy, 2008). These ‘toxic assets’ were bundled into so-called ‘securities’ in the form of bonds that were sold on through the global money markets to investors imagining these were secure, long-term investments,...

  9. 7 The globalisation of the mortgage market
    (pp. 167-198)

    The situation that has propelled housing into the mainstream of debate about macroeconomics, social change and, for our somewhat narrower purpose, welfare state change is the dramatic and rapid consequences of the liberalisation of the banking system in the 1980s and, through the allied process of globalisation, the release into the worldwide economy of a huge wave of new capital. In the housing context, this meant that the old ways of conducting business were consigned to the dustbin of history. In the old system, banks and building societies gave loans to new house-buyers from the deposits of their investors and...

  10. 8 Towards asset-based welfare states
    (pp. 199-224)

    It cannot be stressed too much that housing markets, the growth of home-ownership and the institutions of global capital, particularly mortgage-backed securities (MBS), formed a nexus that became increasingly significant in reconfiguring welfare states across the OECD nations, even impacting on the social market economies. ‘Housing’ and the financial institutions that were built around it have together been key elements shaping a new paradigm and new political attitudes to welfare. What was happening here was, in the language of political science, a key juncture, a moment when there was a shift in established paradigms and when the time came to...

  11. 9 Conclusion
    (pp. 225-244)

    The purpose of these chapters has been to provide students and practitioners working in housing with a broad-brush approach to thinking about the connection between housing and welfare state change. For far too long, ‘housing’ has languished in the backwaters of the comparative welfare state literature, hardly even mentioned in its key texts. As was argued at the outset of the book, the reason for this is probably connected to some confusion about whether housing is a social right or a commodity because housing for most people is provided through markets, albeit encouraged and supported by governments, and this would...