How should we evaluate housing outcomes?

This report raises important issues regarding the evaluation of housing outcomes and the setting of policy/practice objectives that are often overlooked in common approaches, notably the central role of values and who defines them.

The report is not an evidence review. It does not review the effect of particular housing policies or practices on different outcomes. Rather, it digs deeper, asking:

  • How should we evaluate housing outcomes?
  • How should we define progress?
  • What should be the ultimate objective(s) of housing policy and practice?
  • Who decides?

Part one of the report outlines the general issues involved in the evaluation, emphasising the importance of values, and arguing that no evaluation is ‘neutral’ or ‘value-free’.

Figure 1: Graphical outline of part one and part two

Part two discusses the most common types of metrics used to evaluate housing outcomes which are the economic; the objective; and the subjective. The paper discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each, focusing particularly on ethical considerations. Drawing on the work of Amartya Sen, the case is then made for evaluating housing outcomes ultimately on the basis of people’s capabilities – which we define as ‘the effective freedoms and feelings that individuals have reason to value’.

Part three of the report then addresses the question of who decides on the evaluative framework. We argue that bottom-up empowered deliberative democracy should play a much greater role in defining success.

Figure 2: ‘Ideal’ framework for evaluating housing outcomes


In sum, the report argues that any housing outcome evaluation (e.g. Decent Homes Standard) should ultimately focus on, or at least be consistent with, maximising peoples’ capabilities (e.g. sense of homeliness; ability to access green space). These capabilities should ideally be developed from the bottom-up through empowered deliberative democratic deliberation (e.g citizen’s jury).

Part two and three conclude by suggesting some practical steps which housing policymakers, practitioners, academics and citizens might take to make their evaluative frameworks more ethically reasonable.

Authors: Professor David Clapham and Dr Chris Foye

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Date: March 29, 2019 12:00 pm

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