The contested politics of residential space

Housing policy has had the enduring objective of providing a decent home for every family at a price within their means. But what counts as a “decent home” is contested, particularly when the state determines the levels of housing consumption that it is prepared to support through subsidies.

Shelter adopted a consensual approach to establish its Living Home Standard, which consists of 39 attributes under five domains. These were assessed by a survey where respondents made subjective assessments concerning their housing situation. There is a case for developing the Living Home Standard approach into objectively-measurable standards. To treat this objectively would require establishing what is regarded as being a minimum size and quality of accommodation and the cost of “household essentials” – an exercise whose costs exceed our resources. Further, these exercises are limited in terms of policy application in that do not identify underlying values or rationales for establishing what is regarded as being a minimum size of accommodation, or how this is applied to particular groups.

The project aims to explore the values that underpin contested policies that influence levels of housing consumption. It seeks to assist policymakers in three ways by:

  • bringing clarity to the debate by identifying what principles underpin policies affecting space standards;
  • enabling them to attain greater consistency in their application; and
  • seeking consensus in terms of the public’s perceptions of need and fairness.

Team: Professor Mark Stephens (Co-Investigator), Dr Bilge Serin (Research Associate), Dr Gareth James (Knowledge Exchange Associate)

Timeline: Jan 2019 – early 2020

Theme: Wider drivers