Housing: The Essential Foundations

Housing: The Essential Foundations

Housing: The Essential Foundations

Housing: The Essential Foundations


Uniquely multi-disciplinary and including a wealth of illustrations and examples, Housing focuses on key aspects, and provides a comprehensive introduction to the study of this far-reaching subject.


In the United Kingdom, as in most developed economies, housing is a major and often the largest item in personal expenditure. It is also an important determinant of people’s life chances and, next to agriculture, housing normally constitutes the largest single land use. Clearly, apart from nourishment, shelter is humankind’s most essential material need. Housing, however, was selected to be the principal victim of public expenditure cuts during the long period of the Thatcher and Major administrations. Whereas (at 1994-5 prices) public spending on housing amounted to £11.8 billion in 1980-81, by 1995-6 it had plummeted to only £4.7 billion, a decrease of 65 per cent. Housing’s share of public expenditure had fallen from 5.1 to a derisory 1.5 per cent over the same period (Treasury, 1995).

As consequences of these cuts, the annual number of housing completions in the social rented sector in the United Kingdom fell from 110,000 in the 1980s to only 37,400 in 1994 (Department of the Environment, 1996); nearly 1.5 million houses were declared unfit in England in 1991 (Department of the Environment, 1993), with equivalent numbers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; and the number of homeless households in Great Britain accepted by local authorities soared from about 70,000 in 1979 to 179,000 in 1992 (Wilcox, 1996). By international standards, it was evident that far too little was being spent on housing construction. Whereas in Canada in 1980-93 an annual average of 6.1 per cent of the gross domestic product was attributable to gross fixed investment in residential buildings, and 5.8 per cent was invested in France, Germany and Italy over the same period, in the United Kingdom the equivalent proportion was only 3.6 per cent (OECD, 1994, 1995).

Although public policy is clearly instrumental in shaping the quantitative and qualitative attributes of the housing stock, a number of professions are important actors in the functioning of housing markets, reflecting the multi-disciplinary nature of housing education, training and practice. Within the parameters set by government, economists, valuers, sociologists, town planners, builders, building surveyors, environmental health officers, lawyers and housing managers all play an important role against difficult odds in attempting (with varying degrees of success) to ensure that the supply of housing matches the demand or need for accommodation.

A number of professional institutions thus require elements of housing to be included within the syllabuses of accredited degree courses or their equivalent. This book is intended to introduce students to material central to the concerns of the Chartered Institute of Building, the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Royal Town Planning Institute. The book should also be useful, in part, to prospective law practitioners, to undergraduates and postgraduates on non-vocational courses where housing is subject to, for example, economic, political or sociological consideration, and to practising professionals as a source of reference.

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