- Available in: Print and PDF
- Published: January 1, 2008
Foreword by Steve Douglas, and Introduction by Jim Bennett.
Published 2008 (ISBN 1 905370 33 4) Price £9.95
In recent years we have taken an active interest in the role of social housing in a progressive society. We have published several monographs on developments in the sector and facilitated debates on what the future might hold. It has been striking that while these have been successful events, the discussions have all too often been frustrated by a lack of detailed evidence. This study changes that, and provides for the first time a unique longitudinal analysis of the relationship between housing and people’s life chances. At the seminar we held in October 2007 to discuss the study’s findings, it was generally agreed that the work was not only authoritative and extremely timely but also significant in that it provided a unique insight into the complexities and interconnections of social housing’s relationship to how we live and where we live. By reviewing datasets of UK birth cohorts over half a century, the study casts new light on the links between social housing provision, tenants’ lives and social policy. In particular it highlights the intergenerational aspects which shape the relationships between housing, place, family, community and public policy. The study is of course open to interpretation and makes no claims about providing easy answers to the problems facing the social housing sector. However, the research does show how approaches and attitudes to social housing have changed and how this has affected people’s life chances in terms of health, employment, education, social mobility and welfare dependency. It raises important issues concerning the value of social housing and what might need to be considered in order to tackle deep-rooted problems of multiple disadvantage, poverty and worklessness. In tracking the relationship between housing and people’s circumstances and other life outcomes, the study shows that the link between social housing and deprivation is not inevitable. Social housing was until the mid 1960s the tenure of choice for the many. However, the data shows how socioeconomic and cultural factors have reshaped the housing market and demonstrates how social housing policy has been disconnected from our efforts elsewhere to improve people’s life chances. The depressing conclusion is that social housing has become an indicator of risk for adult life chances, above and beyond what might be expected. The situation can be reversed, but this will demand greater recognition that the way social housing has been provided has not supported the very people it was meant to help.