Housing Policy Matters: A Global Analysis

By Shlomo Angel | Go to book overview

5
Housing in Global Perspective

The Globalization of Housing Policy

In any given country, let alone in a single city, it is extremely difficult to compare housing policies or judge their effects, because there is usually only one policy in operation at any given time. This limits individual cities and countries to "before-and-after" comparisons of their own performance over time, a practice that usually hides the inherent structural weaknesses of their housing sectors. To move beyond these limitations, we must embark on a global analysis of the sector, comparing among different cities and countries with different policy regimes. Previously, in the absence of reliable international comparative statistics, this was impossible to do.

The housing sector -- unlike more fortunate sectors such as population, education, or the macro-economy -- has always suffered from a dearth of comparative statistics. Worse than that, there are virtually no books with an analytical -- rather than a descriptive -- global perspective of the housing sector. 1 Housing policy books that adopt a global perspective are usually collections of case studies which may share a common terminology, but which contain few overriding theses to hold them together. They contain almost no data to explain similarities and differences among countries, let alone to evaluate statistically the sources of place-to-place differences. 2 Needless to say, this lack of data makes comparisons between countries less than useful, and inhibits cross-country learning. There is, no doubt, a serious need for comparative housing research that overcomes these limitations: "There is scope for extending the examination of similarities and differences in housing systems. This should be done by reasoned hypothesis testing rather than the application of plausible ideas which seem to fit the facts. This again points to the distinction between a social scientific approach and the use of terminology to tie things together" [ Oxley, 1991, 71].

To compare housing sector performance among countries, we must first "recognize that comparison is about commonalities and differences" [ Oxley, 1991, 68]. The sources of commonality in the housing predicament of different countries are obvious: housing problems are, by and large, a residue of urbaniza-

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