What is the role of housing in contemporary social policy and social development? Dissatisfied with the opaque role of housing in social policy studies, this chapter first looks at the historical connections between housing and economic development. Contrary to conventional social policy rhetoric, economists invariably confirm the positive role of housing policy in economic development, and suggest that it should occupy a more significant role in social development. The chapter then briefly evaluates the role played by international development bodies and suggested that they failed to develop policies fostering a better integration of housing and development. Other than the lack of leadership, a fundamental shift in housing policy favoring market allocation and privatization is attributed as a prime reason for policy failure. To resolve this, the chapter looks at the importance of housing as an asset and a wealth building vehicle in social development. Then borrowing John Rawls’s idea of a property owning democracy, the chapter concludes that an ex ante policy of home ownership by the state as a long run model of housing policy for both the developed and the developing world, in the context better achieving social justice.
This chapter by James Lee discusses the role of housing in social investment with reference to Singapore and other East Asian countries where housing serves not only to meet shelter needs but also as a powerful investment tool that has major long-term welfare effects. Traditional social policy theories have been vague on the social investment impact of social policy, especially with regard to housing policy. Its dual nature, as both consumption and investment, has made it difficult to align with other social polices such as health care and education. This chapter examines its role as social investment in two contrasting high-growth urban economies in East Asia: Singapore and Hong Kong. First, it tackles a gap in contemporary social policy debates and explains why the social investment aspect has been neglected. Second, through the case studies of Hong Kong and Singapore, it explains the important relationship between housing policy and social security. The purpose is to look beyond the residential dimension of housing and to establish a connection between housing policy and asset-building. Given its enormous potentials on investment and returns, its impact on quality of life, wealth and social justice, a thorough understanding of the role of housing policy is vital to realizing the social investment potentials of contemporary social policy. Key words: social investment, international social welfare, housing, Hong Kong, Singapore