Housing and Social Change: East-West Perspectives

By Ray Forrest; James Lee | Go to book overview

6

Housing diversity in the global city

Sophie Watson

In the mid to late 1980s I published two books, Housing and Homelessness: A Feminist Perspective (1986) and Accommodating Inequality (1988), for which the research had been undertaken earlier in that decade. Central to the argument of both of these books was a focus on the marginality of the non-traditional household in the housing system, which, I suggested, derived from the centrality of the traditional nuclear family to housing access, production and design in the housing systems of the two countries on which the book focussed - the UK and Australia. Up until this time the majority of housing provision in the public and private housing sectors had been developed for the traditional family household on the assumption that this form represented the majority of households. Thus in the public sector flats and houses were developed with two to three bedrooms and family households received priority in allocations. Single households were marginalized in this sector. In the private sector similar assumptions prevailed and single women in particular, because of their generally lower incomes, had difficulties gaining access to private finance. At the time these books were seen to break new ground and were even contentious in some quarters. Now 15 years later, as predicted then, to argue that the diversity of households in the global city is considerable, and should thus be a central focus of policy debate and housing provision, is a far less provocative claim.

In this chapter I want to look first at the social and economic changes which have complicated the more normative household structure of the early post-war period. Many of the changes that have taken place in the West as a result of processes of globalization, industrialization and de-industrialization, feminist movements, and changing social demography find their parallels in the East. However, the pace of change - particularly in relation to the strength of the traditional family and patriarchal gender relations - has in some ways been less dramatic. There are though strong indications that similar issues are beginning to be of concern in the countries that comprise Asia. In the second part of the chapter I consider briefly how this diversity has been addressed in various countries both at the broad-brush

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