Housing and Housing Management: Balancing the Two Key Contracts

Housing and Housing Management: Balancing the Two Key Contracts

Housing and Housing Management: Balancing the Two Key Contracts

Housing and Housing Management: Balancing the Two Key Contracts

Synopsis

Housing been described as the "wobbly pillar" of the welfare state on account of it never achieving universal coverage as did health and education. This does not diminish its importance for individuals, households, communities and social stability. Adequate and affordable housing provision is one of the key elements of a functioning democracy. Often characterised as the routine undertaking of simple tasks, housing management never established itself as a key profession in the public sector during the twentieth century. The author challenges that characterisation of housing management by arguing that, from its inception, 'housing management' involves complex tasks. Housing managers engage with some of the most difficult situations, including homelessness, racial harassment, domestic violence and anti-social behaviour. In continually responding to changing emphases in housing and welfare policy, housing management has established itself as a pragmatic and humane profession. However, this characterisation is itself challenged by the systematic erosion of welfare provision and the disciplinary nature of 'welfare reform' that requires housing managers to have an 'enforcement' role in respect of those people that they have traditionally sought to help. Housing management practice in the social sector has always had a complex role as it negotiates the contracts that exist both between tenants and landlords and the wider contract between the welfare state and its tenant citizens. This role faces new challenges as housing is placed at the heart of both welfare reform and an increasingly disciplinary state.The book will be of particular interest to students of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and to policy makers and housing managers more widely.

Excerpt

Housing management is the umbrella term for a range of activities undertaken by landlords in the public and private sectors in relation to their housing stock, its tenants and its applicants. Malpass and Murie (1999) suggest that to some extent housing management is undertaken in all tenures including owner occupation, but the term is not commonly applied to that tenure. The focus of this book is the management f social housing, but the management of private-rented housing is of relevance as that is where housing management originated long before it was ever thought advisable for nation states to fund and/or directly provide housing which needed to be appropriately managed as both a public resource supporting wider social policy objectives and as a public asset with value to be protected. The UK has a long record of state intervention in housing conditions. It also pioneered direct state provision in seeking innovative ways to resolve the housing problems that plague most economies as they urbanise and industrialise (see for example Engels, 1887; Dewsnup, 1907; Kaufman, 1907; Englander, 1983; Daunton, 1983; Morton, 1991). Consequently housing management in the context of public/ social housing also has a long history, but its primary practices, certainly in its early years, derive from long-established private-sector practices and the limitations of even older legal principles and practices derived from the Roman legal system. This ‘institutional’ framework necessarily limits much social housing management activity. The social conservatism for which it is often criticised may well derive from this institutional frame. Max Weber (1903–6) identified the role of institutions that persist in sustaining purposes for which they were not purposefully designed as being one of the basic problems of social science. The ‘two contracts’ in the subtitle of this book that I see as being in fundamental contradiction are the landlord/tenant contract with its 2,000 years’ institutionalised history and the ‘social contract’ between the citizen and the state that guarantees and extends social citizenship. The latter extended housing management in the social housing sector, so in the second half of the twentieth century (along with other aspects of welfare) it developed practices that helped secure homes for the most vulnerable in our society. But all the time the management of social housing was constrained by an unreformed and institutionalised tenancy contract that is designed to protect property ownership, wealth and privilege. It is this contract that welfare reform and other factors in social change (such as financialisation of housing) rely on to reverse the social citizenship achievements of the past seventy years in social housing . . .
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