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Housing Policies: Overviews and International


The Immigration Act 2016 aims to constrain illegal immigration by relying on collaboration from
employers, service providers, and workers in the public and private sector, as well as from members
of the general public. In this way, the government is fostering a culture of enforced cooperation
towards the policing of undocumented migrants; to collectively create a ‘hostile’ environment, or
more recently, what the current UK Government calls a ‘compliant’ environment. However, this Act
is controversial as the implementation of its measures has had unintended consequences, with
potential for further negative implications.

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The UK government has recently implemented the Green Deal, a new pay-as-you-save policy which seeks to fundamentally reform the existing housing stock to make it more energy efficient. Regarded by its proponents as a ‘revolutionary programme to bring our buildings up to date’ (HM Government 2010: 2), generate cash savings for householders, and simultaneously yield environmental benefits by reducing energy consumption, it promises much. However, there have been many critiques of the Green Deal from industry, environmental pressure groups and housing professionals. Moreover there has been very limited take up of Green Deal loans by householders, and those measures which have been installed offer perhaps only minimal improvements in overall energy efficiency. This paper therefore considers the potential generative and productive outcomes of the Green Deal by looking across three related issues: households with low incomes and in fuel poverty; the potential impacts on elements of the housing system; and, the extent of environmental benefits. The paper concludes by suggesting that the instead of being a revolutionary way to improve the energy efficiency of the UK’s domestic building stock, the Green Deal may potentially perpetuate existing social injustice and environmental degradation. The effort should, instead, focus on understanding how energy demand is created in the first place (e.g. desire for larger homes, energy-hungry appliances, heating in every room) through householders’ expectations and changing domestic practices.

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In many countries, the demographic shift towards an ageing population is occurring against a backdrop of welfare state restructuring. The paradigm of asset-based welfare may become increasingly central to these developments as individualised welfare is touted as part of the response to the challenge of funding the care of an ageing population. This article focuses on the framing of housing wealth as a form of asset-based welfare in the UK context. We consider the strengths and weaknesses of housing as a form of asset-based welfare, both in terms of equity between generations and equality within them. We argue that housing market gains have presented many homeowners with significant, and arguably unearned, wealth and that policy-makers could reasonably expect that some of these assets be utilised to meet welfare needs in later life. However, the suitability of asset-based welfare as a panacea to the fiscal costs of an ageing population and welfare state retraction is limited by a number of potential practical and ethical concerns.

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Low pay, high house prices and a small rental sector mean that the housing market in the UK has many inherent risks. Few households have enough savings to cover their housing costs for more than a month if they lost their job. Growing numbers of households rely on the safety net to prevent them becoming homeless if they fall on tough times. Successive governments have made changes to the housing safety net so that it now provides less support to fewer people.
Mindful of these trends, Shelter commissioned the University of St Andrews to assess the gaps in the UK’s current housing safety net. The research estimates the number of households falling through the net or at risk of falling through, the characteristics of those at risk and the main risk factors leading people to fall through the net.

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Soaita A M, 2014, "Overcrowding and ‘underoccupancy’ in Romania: a case study of housing inequality" Environment and Planning A 46(1) 203 – 221

This paper examines aspects of space consumption in two very different housing types, the communist mid-rise estates and post-communist suburban self-built housing. Examining residents’ perceptions in order to categorize space as overcrowded or under-occupied, the paper engages critically with the issue of the inefficient distribution of Romanian housing, that is a considerable mismatch between dwelling and household size. The analysis documents the continued salience of overcrowding in the communist estates and conversely, self-builders’ satisfaction with the generous size of their new homes. Market forces permit various modes of residential mobility but their likely outcome is growing housing inequality while any redistributive impact will remain insignificant unless policy incentives could facilitate conversion of under-occupied space into (social) renting housing. However, only a sustained delivery of larger and affordable new dwellings could alleviate overcrowding.

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Article published in the Spanish journal 'Migraciones' - December 2013

The main objective of this paper is to analyse the transformation of host communities (those that are mainly inhabited by people born in Spain) and the formation and evolution of ethnic residential enclaves in Spain. For this purpose, this investigation has employed a time series (2000-2010) of detailed population data disaggregated by sex, age and country of birth of residents in all census tracts, the smallest geographies in Spain.

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The objectives of this commissioned report were to identify and examine housing need and housing pressures in St Andrews and to outline recommendations as how these may be addressed. Following interviews with local organisations and housing providers, a survey of students and resident households and an interrogation of census and local authority demographic (especially age structure) and housing data (house prices, rent charges etc.), two dominant problems were identified: the shortage of affordable housing and the (over) concentration of student accommodation (HMOs – Housing in multiple occupation) in the centre of the town. The report’s recommendations – partially based on experience elsewhere, especially in other university towns - included: the drawing-up of a detailed housing strategy for the town by Fife Council in collaboration with community representatives to cover, inter alia: the development of an appropriate yardstick for student housing density, and the continuation of and a geographical extension of the present HMO moratorium; the construction of additional student accommodation by both private providers and by the University; and the development of a programme for affordable housing provision starting with the designation and development of a ‘social/mixed housing village’ at the Kilrymont site of Madras College when this becomes available.

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In the context of a detailed examination of a recent article by Eoin O’Sullivan [ ‘Varieties of Punitiveness in Europe: Homelessness and Urban Marginality’ European Journal of Homelessness (2012), vol. 7, pp. 69-97], this paper argues that recent attempts, based in part on the notion of European exceptionalism, to diminish the links between neoliberalism and homelessness are mistaken. The evidence of such links, even in the ‘welfare states’ of western Europe, is abundant and the wholesale supplanting of a ‘punitivism’ by ‘compassion’ is to ignore the lessons of seven decades of research which if it has taught us anything is that homelessness is not just about individual behaviour and good (or bad) intentions. It is also critically about societal constrictions and impositions and possibilities which themselves are the expression of present and past economic circumstances and prevailing political doctrine.

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Community-led housing organisations innovate in the resolution of local housing issues by adopting a specialised local focus and emphasising community leadership and engagement. In order to meet their objectives they require access to finance, skills and legitimacy; resources that are often secured through frameworks of intermediary support and external partnerships. This article uses two sector-based case studies of community land trusts (CLTs) and self-help housing to explore the importance and effect of intermediary support in securing access to these resources. These sectors have grown in size and importance in recent years through different forms of intermediation that replicate community-led housing in different locations. The article compares the 'scaling-up' of CLTs and the viral spread of self-help housing, highlighting differences in the emphasis that each approach places on community leadership and links with technical experts. We then discuss the implications of this for future housing initiatives and wider relevance for facilitating community-led innovation. Volume 4, Issue 3 of Voluntary Sector Review (November 2013)

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Full reference:
Soaita, A. M. (2013). Book review: 'Social Housing across Europe' by Noémie Houard (Ed) Paris: Imprimerie de la Direction legale et administrative, 362 pp.; €20 paperback, ISBN 978-2-11-008849-9, Urban Studies, 50(10).

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