At its most elementary level, housing serves as shelter, offering protection against inclement weather and victimization by street crime. Housing fulfils other functions as well. It is typically a significant economic investment, for households as well as builders. Residents also tend to hold emotional attachments to housing as home. In addition, governments have used housing as a tool to attain other policy objectives, such as reducing unemployment or inflation, and dispersing, integrating or segregating population groups. Given its significant roles in society, housing provides important angles for sociological research. First, housing must accommodate behavioral needs related to family life and neighborly interactions. Second, housing reflects and reinforces social and economic structures. For example, stratification and discrimination crystallize as a tangible housing problematic whose study sheds light on their broader manifestation. Third, housing links outcomes at the individual level to higher level phenomena. The homelessness of households, for example, can be seen in the context of regional housing and labor markets, which in turn operate under national policies and global investment patterns. It is an arena where interest group dynamics are played out in regard to the allocation of scarce resources.
[...] In this chapter, we address the wider sociological analysis of housing research, which deals with housing both as object and as process, together with the contexts in which such analysis has emerged. An Organizational Scheme for Housing Research The conventional conception of housing is: apartments, housing units, buildings. They vary by design, cost, location, and scale. Whatever their characteristics, they are the physical objects of built environment. It is essential to know what quality of housing is available with specific design characteristics, and at specific costs, locations, and scales. [...]
[...] Some housing for people unable to get decent housing on the private market was built during this period, but with the initiative of lower levels of government and philanthropic bodies. The U.S. federal government only entered this sphere closer to the end of the depression, in 1937. In the 1930s, a coalition of liberal reformers, the National Housing Conference, the National Association of Housing Officials, and labor groups had pressured the U.S. government to take permanent responsibility for the provision of low-rent public housing. [...]
[...] Although rooted in the broader context of structural inequalities and racism, neighborhood and housing factors played a critical role. After successfully addressing discrimination in employment and education, the civil rights movement turned to housing and was instrumental in the passing of a fair housing act. Discrimination was not, however, a uniquely U.S. problem. Behavior Provision of new housing did not prove a magic solution to the improvement of people's lives. Nonetheless, both in Britain and in North America researchers found how behavior occurred according to the path of least resistance fostered by the design of buildings and outside spaces. [...]
[...] Major themes in the housing literature fit within this organizing scheme, which helps to show how housing represents a reasonably coherent field of research and not a chaotic congeries of specific studies. In the next section, we turn to a historical overview as to when and why certain issues gained research interest followed by an examination of how national priorities have accentuated particular themes. The Societal Context: An Historical Perspective This section illustrates the connections between societal contexts and research themes, largely, though not exclusively, with respect to historical trends in North America and represented by English-language literature. [...]
[...] Other work on socialist housing revealed the underlying tension between the low-cost provision of housing, producing a minimal return on investment, and the need to commit national resources to more productive sectors of the economy, notably heavy manufacturing. The trade-off frequently led to the use of inferior construction materials and substandard maintenance, and authorities covertly tolerated black market mechanisms. More recently, the transition to market systems of the formerly socialist countries in Eastern Europe has brought with it new problems. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee