Comparing Housing Systems: Housing Performance and Housing Policy in the United States and Britain

By Valerie Karn; Harold Wolman | Go to book overview

1
Measuring Housing System Performance

The performance of a housing system may be seen from the point of view of either the individual or society. With respect to the individual, the performance of a housing system relates to the quality of housing services which flow from the housing stock, the availability and price of housing of different qualities, the rights associated with occupancy, the degree of choice in access to housing, and the distribution of housing quality, cost, rights, and access among the population according to relevant characteristics--for example, social class, income, race, geographic location, age, family size, etc. The quality of housing services flowing from the stock encompasses the full range of the 'bundle of housing services', including dwelling characteristics (condition, amenities, size, etc.), neighbourhood environment, degree of accessibility to places of work, shopping, friends, and recreation, and security associated with occupancy.

From society's point of view, the performance of the housing system must be evaluated in the first instance in terms of the extent to which it meets the shelter needs of its citizens. Thus, performance relates to the adequacy of supply relative to need, to the quality of the stock, and to its availability at affordable prices. A wellfunctioning housing system must not only provide an adequate supply of housing of acceptable quality at any one point in time; it must also be able to produce sufficient increments to the housing stock to meet growth in the number of households, to maintain the existing stock at usable levels of quality, and to replace the existing stock as, for one reason or another, it becomes unusable.

In the broadest terms 'cost' of housing (as distinct from the 'price' paid by consumers of housing) must be considered as a critical factor in evaluating national housing system performance. What is the per unit cost of producing housing of given quality levels? That is, to what extent does housing production pre-empt other uses of society's resources? How much of society's resources are devoted to housing production? And how does this relate to

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