A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy
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A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy

Edited by Patricia Kennett

The current context of social policy is one in which many of the old certainties of the past have been eroded. The predominantly inward-looking, domestic preoccupation of social policy has made way for a more integrated, international and outward approach to analysis which looks beyond the boundaries of the state. It is in this context that this Handbook brings together the work of key commentators in the field of comparative analysis in order to provide comprehensive coverage of contemporary debates and issues in cross-national social policy research.
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Chapter 20: Shelter, Housing and Inequality

Ray Forrest


Ray Forrest Introduction How do we construct the housing question from a comparative perspective? How do we begin to map out variations over space and time in the processes which shape patterns of housing provision and housing inequalities? This chapter offers an introductory exploration of these issues. Initially, it outlines a general framework for understanding some of the special features of housing as a focus of social policy and government intervention. It then proceeds to define the nature of the contemporary housing policy debate, primarily but not exclusively, in (post-) industrialized societies and outlines how this debate can be approached for purposes of international comparative research. The remainder of the chapter then concentrates on three processes which are central to the contemporary housing question: social change and economic uncertainty; demographic ageing; housing commodification and social disadvantage. The nature of housing and the contemporary housing policy debate Unlike policy areas such as education, health or social security, housing provision is most typically dominated by market processes in both construction, use and exchange. Moreover, housing as a physical entity is immobile, generally durable and encompasses wide variations in style and function. As a social creation and in its everyday use it is intimately local and the key site of daily routine and family life. At the other extreme, investment in housing and the flows of funds into and out of the residential sphere have significant ramifications for household finances, national economies and global financial flows. Housing is both...

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