Housing Studies - University of Sheffield

“Those That Used to Have a Right to Live Here”:
Historical and contemporary struggles of public
John Flint
University of Sheffield
[email protected]
Inaugural Lecture,
ICOSS, University of Sheffield
20 November 2013
The Importance of historical precedents
“This likeable Scot has an entertaining manner,
yet appears to be costing with his uninspired
material…much of what he covers is very limited
in scope…in a routine that never really takes off”
Review: Chortle Comedy Website, 2002
The task before us
“Talking once with a miner I asked him when the
housing shortage first became acute in his district;
he answered ‘When we were first told about it.’”
George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (p. 57)
“We need to be thinking of the sociology and the
psychology of the city…we have to start thinking of
the human beings who live in the cities of America
and what it is to live there.”
Senator Abraham Ribicoff, 1966 (quoted in
McLaughlin, 2011, p. 551, emphasis added).
Laurel Homes, Cincinnati
The second oldest public housing project in the United States is
removed from the National Register of Historic Places so that it can be
demolished in a HOPE VI programme (Goetz, 2013, p. 161)
The neglect of history in housing studies (Cole, 2001)
“The dismantling of public housing in cities…and a fundamental
redefinition of the city and a different vision of what the city should
be (Goetz, 2013, p. 99, emphasis added)
The housing crisis
“Middle-class young ‘will fare worse than their parents.’” Headline in
The Observer, 12 October 2013 (based on the report of The Social
Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, see Boffey, 2013)
“What do we do about those households who used to have a
right to live here?” (Westminster LBC housing official)
‘Sites to be razed’: the imaginary of public housing
• Re-presenting public housing in the
imagination (Mann, 2012).
• “Seen from 40 floors up in a luxury
tower across town, Cabrini-Green’s
apartment slabs brood like
tombstones on quarantined turf”
(quoted in Mann, 2012, 282).
• In 1952 Congress required public
housing tenants to sign loyalty oaths
certifying that they were not
members of subversive
• Concealment and containment:
Hurricane Katrina eroded the
distinction between the private
ghetto and the public arena
(Rhodes, 2010).
The controversy of housing and urban
restructuring programmes
“Nothing- no programme- did more to destroy homes and
communities in this country than the Luftwaffe in the
Second World War, but the housing market renewal
programme did more housing destruction and community
destruction than there has been at any time since the
[Some descriptions of HMR] “were so distant from the
reality on the ground…as to be a grotesque bending of
the truth.”
Grant Shapps, Minister for Housing, UK Government, 22
April 2012 (see Bury, 2012)
International coalescence and alignment
• International coalescence and alignment within
housing, planning and urban policy in western
neo-liberal societies in the last twenty years
• Uniformity of the diagnosis of urban housing
problems and the commonality of rationalities
and techniques deployed to address them
• Low demand, poor stock condition and ‘shrinking
• Physical and economic ‘obsolescence’
• Crisis of the social purposes and outcomes of
public housing
• ‘Neighbourhood effects’ (underclass, Broken
Britain etc.)
Rationalities and techniques
• Mixed communities, reconnected housing markets and
neighbourhood renewal
• Techniques of renovation, demolition, new build and tenure and
population reconfigurations through mechanisms and
consequences often defined as state-sponsored gentrification
• Housing Market Renewal (England), Housing Opportunities for
People Everywhere/ Moving to Opportunity (United States),
Stedelikje Herstructureing (urban restructuring)/ 40 Wijkenannpak(40 Neighbourhoods)(Netherlands), Solidarite et Renouvellement
(Solidarity and Urban Renewal) Housing Act (France), the
Stadtumbau Ost (Urban Restructuring East) (Germany), National
Rental Affordability Scheme (Australia)
• Widely and extensively implemented outside these national
programmes by local urban regimes at state and city levels (Goetz,
“It is our part to relieve the Distressed, theirs to amend their
An Account of the Proceedings of the Governors of LockHospital, London, 11 December 1749 (quoted in Cruickshank,
2010, p. 302).
“The causes of apprehension and complaint among populations
ultimately lie not within constitutions or governments but in their
own conduct”
(Edmund Burke, 1790, p. 375).
The Right and Broken Britain
• Social Justice Policy Group (2006) Breakdown Britain:
• Alan Duncan MP, 2007: a need to ‘re-civilise Britain’
to counter ‘a real life Lord of the Flies’
• Browne (2008): ‘Despite some moral improvements’,
family breakdown, drug and alcohol abuse and
welfare dependency have ‘unequivocally increased’
in the last two decades with ‘an evident’ decline in
social capital
• Conservative Party (2010): Labour’s Two Nations
• David Cameron (2010): “Huge cultural changes will
be required within communities lacking the abilities
to cope with modern life.”
A perpetual crisis of the present?
• “age of insecurity”, “loss of ontological security”, “age of
anxiety”, “angst society”, “governmentality of unease”; “liquid
life”, vertigo of modernity” (Judt, 2010; Scott, 2000; Giddens,
1990; Gilbert,2009; Beck, 1992; Young, 2007)
• Advanced urban marginality (Wacquant, 2008) and the precariat
(Standing, 2011)
• BUT…
• Perceived periods of crisis are ubiquitous in urban history
(Beatrice Webb on the 1920s:‘moral miasma…atmosphere of
morbid alcoholism and sexuality, furtive larceny and unashamed
mendacity…a barbarous underclass.’)
• Tropes of housing, environmental and moral degradation at the
birth of ‘public’ housing
• Empirical evidence contested (see Griffith et al., 2011 and
Mooney, 2009).
Big Society as an associative figuration
• Big Society is an ‘associative figuration’ (Barker, 1960),
implying contracts of governance (as with the ‘nation’ and
‘welfare’ state)
• A mechanism for naming the world (Bourdieu, 1984)
• Based on a perceived subversion of the welfare state and
the underpinning social contract
• Premised on Victorian (not welfare state)philanthropy and
voluntarism and laissez faire/elite localism, not
• Localism Act: Neighbourhood planning; influence on
planning decisions; right to build; community
infrastructure levy
• Autonomy and flexibility for local authorities and
“localness” in social housing allocations
• Enhanced role for private landlords
‘Changing the narrative’ and cynical ideology
• Acting ‘as if’ and the ‘manufactured ignorance’ of
the state (Crawford, 2012; Slater, 2012; Zizek,
“They know very well how things really are, yet still
they are doing it as if they did not know.”
• The role of governments in urban neoliberalization
is “in practice more often about the management
of perceptions than the management of the urban
macro economy” (Lovering, 2007, p. 3).
Redefining government
• Liberal Party in Canada describing the 1995
Budget that devolved responsibility for social
housing provision to the Provinces: “the very
redefinition of government itself” (Martin, 1995,
• “A new contract with the British people on work
and welfare” (HM Government, 2012)
• “The days of big government are over”(CLG,
2011, p2)
• ‘Private registered providers of social housing’
(Home Office, 2012).
Crisis as norm
“The housing benefit system has almost created an
expectation that you could almost live anywhere,
and that’s what has to stop.”
Grant Shapps, Former Housing Minister, 2010
(quoted in Ramesh et al., 2010)
“Those within [the welfare system] grow up with a
series of expectations: you can have a home of your
David Cameron, June 2012
David Cameron speech on welfare reform,
25 June 2012:
“Why does the single mother get the council housing
straightaway when the hard-working couple have been
waiting years?”
“There are currently 210,000 people aged 16-24 who are social
housing tenants…and this is happening when there is a
growing phenomenon of young people living with their
parents into their 30s because they can’t afford their own
place- almost 3 million between the ages of 20 and 34. So
for literally millions, the passage to independence is several
years living in their childhood bedroom as they save up to
move out. While, for many others, it’s a trip to the council
where they can get housing benefit at 18 or 19- even if they
are not actively seeking work…there are many who will have
a parental home and somewhere to stay- they just want
more independence.”
Re-naming the world
• Reframing the expectations of populations (and by
extension their expectations of government)
• A home of one’s own (never mind home ownership!)
becomes fanciful
• Doxa (Bourdieu, 1984): taken for granted- the way things
• Young people’s desire for independent living is
• The transformation, within a generation, of expected
pathways and timescales to having a home of one’s own is
a ‘phenomenon’; divorced from governmental and societal
processes and priorities
• Denying the possibility of alternative (Jacobs and Manzi,
• An implacable system beyond governmental reach
• Domopolitics (Walters, 2004): Governing the nation as the home
• Reconfiguration of relations between citizen, state and territory and
their rationalities and spatialities
• Political economy governs the state as a household, domopolitics
governs the state as a home
• A move from (rational)political economy to governance through
emotion and belonging: ‘expectation’ ‘fairness’ and ‘localness’ rather
than ‘need’, ‘strategy’ and ‘calculation’
• Domus in Rome meant wealthy homes. The majority of the urban
population resided in censula (flats) in insula buildings.
Redefining the essence of poverty Itself
“For too long we have measured our success in
tackling poverty in terms of the simplistic concept
of income transfer”
(Iain Duncan Smith, foreword to HM Government,
“This government believes that the focus on
income over the last decades has ignored the
root causes of poverty”
(HM Government, 2012, p. 4).
Redefining the essence of poverty Itself
“People living in poverty are significantly more
vulnerable to getting into problem debt- partly
because their low income can make repayments
more difficult, but also because their backgrounds
may mean they missed out on learning money
management skills”
(HM Government, 2012, p. 57).
“A once in a lifetime opportunity…to give kids in
households a chance not to repeat the pattern of
unemployment, lawlessness and failure of their
parents and often grandparents”
(Louise Casey, 28 March, 2012).
The causes of apprehension…
• The location of the contemporary crisis
(including its housing dimensions) at the
individual household level is a defining feature
of contemporary governmentalities
• The inevitable result: Yarlington Housing
Group’s Household Ambition Plan and
Edinburgh City Council’s ‘fag and booze tests’
for Discretionary Housing Payments (see
Johnson, 2013; Brown, 2013)
An alternative politics of public housing
• Public housing always linked to another cause- relief
employment, economic stimulation and urban
• The ‘public housers’ in the US argued that public
housing was an entitlement programme for the
majority of the American public (von Hoffman, 2005,
p. 244)
• Housing as an issue of social justice rather than
environmental health and a ‘national disgrace’ in
Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty: in response to
‘long hot summers’ and ‘urban
convulsions’(McLaughlin, 2011, p. 541-542).
Localism and residential fixivity
• A temporal and spatial compression of the expectations
of, and right to, housing
• Localism as a site of desperate efforts to stay put and the
right to place (Watt, 2013a;Hodkinson, 2013)
• The permanency of residence is removed (Goetz, 2013),
reducing elective fixivity (Paton, 2012) for lower income
households and generating forms of urban transience
reminiscent of both the contemporary global south and
Victorian urban Britain
• In a mirror image, new forms of forced fixivity for young
people required to remain in the parental home (McKee,
2012; Pennington et al., 2012 )
• The attempt of the Big Society and localism to realign the
‘locus of control’ (Fitzpatrick and Pawson, 2013)to local
communities coincides with a loss of this control over
fixivity in locale for ever larger groups of the population
The end of the ‘actual existing right to the city’?
• Wacquant (2008): ‘actually existing neoliberalism’
• Hodkinson (2013): ‘actually existing right to the city’
• The loss of a sense of stable community and place amongst younger
generations: Council housing as the ‘Gold Standard’ (Watt, 2013):
‘Not for us’ and being ‘kicked out.’
• But also, ‘the forgotten third’: ‘factory workers, tradespeople, school
teachers and office workers’ targeted by legislation for cooperative
society supply of housing in the United States in the 1950s (von
Hoffman, 2005).
• For Big Society and localism (and domo-politics) to have any sense
of coherence they require belonging and commitment to place
• But housing and welfare reforms act to reduce the ‘right to the city’:
to access and occupy urban space (at domestic and neighbourhood
• Raquel Rolnick (UN rapporteur on adequate housing): UK has a
housing crisis; the localism of social housing (not only aggregate
provision) matters; and there is a retrogression in human-housing
rights (see Gentleman, 2013)
Back to the future? Edinburgh
 Edinburgh Improvement Act of 1867.
 New housing intended for ‘superior working classes’.
 Public subsidies recognised but profitability remained the
first consideration of the redevelopment plan.
 Redevelopment ‘marched to the dictates of the market
place’ and to ensure the best possible return on
investment: entirely dependent upon the building
industry’s willingness to take over cleared sites.
 The centrality of laissez faire and the reluctance to enlarge
the scope of public responsibility: public enterprise should
do nothing that private enterprise could do.
 Representation by elites representing enfranchised
households bearing the public costs.
 Chief beneficiaries were ‘rent-racking’ landlords.
Back to the future? London’s East End
 Elite benefitting from slum landlordism.
 Selling cleared land to private firms but many sites
remained unsold and 4,000 evictees awaiting rehousing.
 London County Council not legally permitted to
rebuild housing.
Boundary street redevelopment in 1893:
 “Taking away poor people’s houses.”
 Evicted residents ‘ruled out of the new vision for
Boundary Street’.
 One third of evicted residents could not afford new
rents: 11 out of 5,719 moved into the new estate.
 Rapid rent increases of 27 per cent.
 Strict rules for new tenements and no rent arrears
allowed, Wise (2008)
City Beautiful?
• Large scale state intervention in the real estate
market, including demolition and municipal
regulation of design and construction of buildings.
• A civic landscape to counter corporate capitalism
and the skyscraper as well as violent labour conflict.
• Public investment designed to enhance urban
commerce, investment capital, private profits
increasing property values, tourism, trade and
revitalised local urban economies.
• “Beauty has always paid better than any other
commodity and always will.” (Daniel Burnham).
• “Bringing rich people here rather than them go
elsewhere to spend their money” (Daniel Burnham).
• Refusal of free entry for poor children on one
dedicated day of the Chicago World Fair.
• Philanthropic housing could not compete with the
20 per cent returns of slum landlordism (Birch and
Gardner, 1981).
The Great Refusal: Secession from responsibility?
• The importance of ‘building resilience’ and ‘character’
(Riots, Communities and Victims Panel, 2012).
• ‘Fairness’ in housing and welfare systems (HM Government,
2011; HM Government, 2012; Scottish Government, 2012;
Cameron, 2012)
• Secession from responsibility? (Boudreau and Keil, 2001)
• Social attitudes on housing in England 2010- 28 % support
new local homes, 19% support new social housing by
councils/ housing associations and 5% think housing is the
priority for government expenditure (Taylor, 2011)
• The City of London (not in the Domesday Book) and the
precedent of the ‘great refusal.’
The Irony of Grant Shapps
• Evacuation versus Housing Benefit reform in London.
• Housing always ‘wobbly pillar of welfare state’ (Malpass,
2003), but Homes for Heroes post 1918 and council housing
post 1945?
Seceding from the future
• A reinvigorated belief in the power of planning to
shape cities and to control the future? (Judt, 2010)
• “With the destruction of the sixties, at least they had
the excuse they were building the new Jerusalem”
(resident quoted in Minton, 2012)
• The crisis now conceptualised at individual household
• A reduction in the centralising authority of public
housing through the growth of private (increasingly
corporate) landlordism
• Brown, Cameron and cynical ideology- office as
The ‘wobbly pillars’ of social contract (Malpass,
Housing was a mechanism of insulation from the
vagaries of capitalism
Those in power have lost control of the future
(Judt, 2010)
Inability to provide centralising authority and to
offer protection and predictability: the key pillars
of the social contract
A pre-emptive response to the consequences of a
new generation having less housing (and life)
opportunities than their parents (Colic-Peisker
and Johnson, 2012; McKee; 2012; Pennington et
al., 2012; Boffey, 2013)
Back to the future?
• Lays claim to recapturing a previous era of civic engagement and
the dynamism of provincial cities and towns (Hunt, 2004)
• Precarious and transient existence of lower income households; a
housing crisis: laissez faire landlordism and a deliberate distancing
(through moralisation of poverty) of state and government from the
• “An urban modernity haunted by that which it sought to overcome”
(Crook, 2008, p. 429)
• The key historical lesson is that voluntary endeavour, local
mercantile philanthropy (including the pioneers of housing
philanthropy) and self regulation exposed the limitations of these
forms of governance and their inadequacies to grapple with the
scale of the urban crisis (Birch and Gardner, 1981)
• The modern project, in response, extended the social contract
through municipal and subsequently national state intervention,
culminating in the welfare state and the great housing programmes
of the 20th Century
• The Big Society, as a form of enacting responsibility and obligation
to act, requires the responsibilisation of government.
Emaciated ambition?
• A broken state, not a broken society? (Slater, 2011)
• Government rationalities articulate a form of governing
without government (Jacobs and Manzi, 2013) that
conceals realigned class and generational relationships:
• The old political economy that underpinned public
housing is obsolete (Goetz, 2013)
• A governmental response to a structural crisis in housing,
affecting new populations (including the middle class)
that seeks to deny or reframe the nature of the crisis
• Housing represents a governmental spatial fix for the
uncertainties engendered by a generational decline in
housing opportunities (Mann, 2012; McKee, 2012)
• An emaciated form of housing and urban governance
and ambition for what the city could and should be
Dispersing power?
• “The time has come to disperse power more widely in Britain
today…and to pass power back to where it belongs” (CLG, 2011)
• Treasure Islands and PFI (Shaxson, 2011; Raco, 2012)
• The Victorian ‘Big Society’ built upon elites sharing a fate in
space and place (disease, unrest, crime) with those that they
sought to govern:
• Museums, parks, prisons, schools and, eventually, housing for the
working classes, were inherently local as well as urban, based on
a localised social contract (see Hunt, 2004)
• A wider project of demunicipalisation
• Overseas ownership of property in London (Hodkinson, 2013;
Watt, 2013a, 2013b)
• Corporate landlordism (Minton, 2012; Hodkinson, 2013; Watt;
2013a, 2013b) and blurring of social and private rental tenures
(including homelessness functions)
• Japan and the lost generation?
• What are the sociological consequences
of a generation having less housing
opportunities than their parents?
(McKee, 2012; Pennington et al., 2012;
Colic-Peisker and Johnson, 2012, Boffey,
• What if there is no longer a centralised
or centralising authority which social
contract thinkers built/build their
theories upon?
• What if the political economy that
underpinned public housing is dead?
(Goetz, 2013)?
• What if permanent affordability (Goetz,
2013) is now replaced by transience?
Wicked problems and urban space
• ‘Reimage’ cities : transforming entire public housing stocks and
reconfiguring the architectural and demographic reality of these
cities (Goetz, 2012).
• ‘Difficult spaces’ and multi-scalar geographies of socio-spatial
justice (Soja, 2010; Ferrari, 2012; Pinnegar, 2012).
• Struggles for the ‘soul of the city’ (Judt, 2010).
• The imagining of the ‘just city’ (Harvey, 1973; Fainstein, 2011;
Marcuse et al., 2009).
• The ‘right to the city’: the ability to legitimately participate in
(access) and appropriate (occupy) urban space (Lefebvre, 1968;
Harvey, 2008; Attoh, 2011; Duke, 2009; Connelly, 2011).
• Spatial manifestations of power and conflict (Zukin, 1991).
• Paton’s (2012) concept of differential elective fixivity and how
different classes retain or develop an ability to control or choose
their location.
• ‘Context of transience’ in the ‘illegal cities’ of the global south
(Datta, 2012).
What are we to do?
“Architects and planners must give the lead and the target must be placed
higher than the inarticulate yearnings of the average working class housing
wife” (reviewer of Peoples Survey, 1940, quoted in Kynaston, 2007, p 52):
• A reinvigorated sociology of housing, returning to the traditions of
previous scholars, with empirical as well as theoretical ambition
• Looking in the right places (Raco’s work on PFI; CIH)
• Challenging orthodoxy, in historical, international and local terms
• Meeting the challenge of ‘naming the world’ and recognising the nature
of the political project confronting us
• Recognising that ‘impact’ requires new forms of communication and
engagement (think tanks); acknowledging the radical transformation of
housing professions; identifying and working closely with alternatives
(Wakefield District Housing, Sheffield City Council); but also ‘truth to
power’- don’t misunderstand what progressive coalitions want from ‘ivory
• Detachment in Eliasian terms: not positivism or ‘objective’ empiricism,
but resisting the ‘retreat into the present’
• A renewed ambition (despite HMR and Hope VI) that the future can be
calculated and shaped: that there can be (some) order from chaos
Alternative urban visions
‘Hope Seoul’ master plan 2014
Allowing each citizen to enjoy welfare benefits and securing a
minimum standard of living.
To create a city where each citizen can unabashedly enjoy a
certain level of welfare.
“In the future the city will focus on welfare as a basic human
right and strive to approach a form of universal welfare by
establishing the ‘Seoul Standard’ for this first time in the country
and designating the marginalized as ‘Seoul households in
poverty’ (emphasis added).
Increasing the ratio of public housing, supporting co-operative
housing and supplying housing vouchers to monthly rental
housing tenants from low income households.
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