Evaluation and Conclusions
In this study we have looked at the performances of the British and American housing systems as they appeared during the 1980s, the policies which have helped to produce this picture in the past, and the housing policy agendas of the Reagan and Thatcher governments and their critics. Comparing the two countries in these three areas helps to provide clearer insights into housing policy trends, particularly the definition of 'problems' and 'solutions', than if each country had been viewed in isolation.
We begin, though, with a cautionary note. The term 'housing crisis' has been greatly overworked and often serves to obscure debate through overemphasis on measuring how 'big' the 'crisis' is, which, curiously enough, takes the edge off policy response, when the 'crisis' fails to come, at least in the terms defined. Existing 'housing crises' proclaimed at any one point in time have a way of disappearing quickly (though whether through changes in objective conditions, changes in public and media attention, or because the problem was exaggerated in the first place is difficult to say). 'The coming housing crisis' has been almost a permanent theme in American public policy discussion since World War II. John Kain, in an article on what might be termed 'housing crisis succession', observed that ( 1983: 137) 'The 1970s began with a housing abandonment crisis, which was followed by a home-ownership affordability crisis, a rental housing crisis, and a condominium conversion crisis.' One could add in the 1980s 'the homelessness crisis'. Kain notes that this succession of crises is all the more remarkable given the improvement of most housing indicators between 1970 and 1980. A healthy suspicion of crises in both countries should not, however, blind us to the existence of real and continuing housing problems. Let us sum up what these are, and the degree to which they are shared by both countries.
The extent to which availability is or is not a problem is a difficult question. It seems clear that in both the United States and Britain there were, certainly during the first part of the decade, enough units nationally, so that if units were simply assigned to