Housing, homelessness and the welfare state in the UK


Anderson I (2004) Housing, homelessness and the welfare state in the UK. European Journal of Housing Policy, 4 (3), pp. 369-389.

This paper re-examines the role of the state in relation to homelessness in the UK. Taking a long term and macro-level perspective, the paper takes changing levels of poverty and inequality as broad indicators of the effectiveness of differing approaches to welfare, and looks at trends in homelessness across three eras of welfare. The analysis draws on theories of the state and the welfare state to explain differing levels of homelessness and to draw conclusions as to possible future pathways. State intervention in housing in the UK preceded the development of the welfare state, but homelessness intervention lagged behind during a long period of welfare expansion and consolidation. This early period bequeathed a legacy of social democratic policies which had significantly reduced poverty and income inequality, improved housing conditions and introduced legislation to protect households from homelessness. During the Conservative neo-liberal period (1979–97) welfare retrenchment was significant and resulted in real and substantial increases in poverty and inequality. The homelessness crisis resulted in further intervention in homelessness, despite retrenchment in housing. Since 1997, New Labour has claimed to implement a Third Way in social policy. However, this has been limited in its distinctiveness from the Conservative era (rolling out neo-liberalism, rather than rolling back welfare). Nevertheless, state intervention and welfare outcomes can and do change over time and space. Neo-liberalism is neither inevitable nor global, though it is proving to be enduring and widespread. Homelessness levels can be an important and valuable indicator of the most extreme manifestations of inequality and of the differing impact of different welfare regimes.

Housing; Homelessness; Welfare Regimes; Poverty; Homelessness Great Britain; Housing Government policy Great Britain; Poverty Great Britain; Welfare state Great Britain

European Journal of Housing Policy: Volume 4, Issue 3

Publication date31/12/2004
PublisherTaylor & Francis