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

By Valerie Karn; Harold Wolman | Go to book overview

9
Housing Affordability and Access to Housing Services; I: Public and Not-for-Profit Rental Housing

As Chapter 3 indicated, access to good-quality housing services appears to be more unevenly distributed with respect to income in the United States than in Britain, and, in particular, American tenants have to pay much larger proportions of their incomes for rent than British tenants. In the next two chapters we shall consider the effectiveness of those policies which respective governments have claimed have been aimed at improving housing affordability and equity of distribution of housing services. There are two features of policy in the United States and Britain which warrant particularly extensive treatment in relation to affordability and access: these are, first, the provision of public and not-for-profit rental housing and, second, the provision of income-related housing allowances to public- and private-sector tenants and homeowners, either through specially designed housing benefits or through the social-security and welfare systems. It is to these two topics that Chapters 9 and 10 are primarily devoted. However, many of the other measures already described in earlier chapters also have intended or unintended consequences for affordability and access, and these will be recapitulated in Chapter 10 before conclusions are drawn about the overall impact of public policy on the distribution of housing services.


THE ROLE OF PUBLIC AND NOT-FOR-PROFIT HOUSING IN IMPROVING AFFORDABILITY AND ACCESS

Much of the advantage that British households enjoy in terms of equity and affordability has been due to the substantial presence of public-sector housing, which has provided reasonably high-quality housing at low rents to large numbers of low-income households. In 1985 nearly half (46.8 per cent) of all British households with incomes less than 50 per cent of the national median lived in

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