A new book for those with an interest in housing and communities tackles the issues of social inequality which impact on housing.
Housing and Inequality is edited by Professor Isobel Anderson of the University of Stirling and Dr Duncan Sim of the University of the West of Scotland.
They judge successive government efforts to reduce inequality. “Low income and poverty are still key reasons for homelessness and poor housing,” says Professor Anderson. “Welfare reform seems likely to make wider inequalities even worse.
“New Labour put a lot of investment into improving housing conditions, but despite its tax credits and other major reforms, inequalities across the UK are not significantly reduced. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition ‘State of the Nation’ report accepted that the gap between high and low earners was bigger than at any time since the statistics began, but its focus on deficit reduction threatens the housing policy gains of the previous decade.
“The policy emphasis has shifted to aiming for ‘fairness’, compared to the previous emphasis on social exclusion or social cohesion. The problem is that ‘fairness’ is a vaguer term – if it prioritises those in work, it may well make inequality worse.”
The book assesses a wide range of recent research evidence to explain how inequality impacts on people’s ability to access and pay for housing and the implications for housing professionals and policy makers.
Inequality and wider disadvantage are key drivers of housing need. “By understanding inequality and what causes it, society can be better placed to help improve the housing circumstances of individuals and communities,” Professor Anderson added.
“Policymakers and practitioners should ask themselves what inequality means, how housing and housing costs link to inequalities in work and incomes, whether some groups suffer greater inequalities, and how inequality changes as people go through different stages in their lives.
“Careful thinking about these issues will show that inequality is a central issue in housing, but that available research evidence can support improved approaches to reducing housing inequality and better managing the links with other policy areas such as training and employment”.
Housing and Inequality, edited by Isobel Anderson and Duncan Sim, is published by CIH (Chartered Institute of Housing) in the Practice Studies series, price £30.