Comparative Housing and Urban Studies

In this context, a conceptual and analytical framework for comparing and learning from different systems of housing provision and urban governance is needed. Inter-country comparisons of housing systems

(e.g. financing, tenure) and key indicators of outcomes (e.g. affordability, dwelling standards) are often used to draw lessons about which forms of government intervention in the housing market appear most effective. The state of comparative urban studies and planning research is more modest. It is likely that the very detailed nature of planning systems— which feature regulatory apparatuses at several scales of operation—has served to inhibit comparisons between different nations. Yet comparison offers one of the few methods for assessing the potential merits of alternative governance arrangements.

Kemeny (1999) identifies two basic strands of comparative research. The first is a ‘convergence’ school which, he argues, positions all housing systems along a common trajectory, with differences related to sequential stages of development towards a similar end point. Such a ‘convergence’ model provides an explanation for the shift from welfare-based housing systems towards increasing marketisation, home ownership and private renting, in cases like Britain or the Netherlands. By contrast, ‘divergence’ schools argue that differences between nations and outcomes may persist and increase. It is widely recognised that institutions, policies and practices in particular countries today are very much a product of historical evolution of those systems in their national context—the so-called path- dependence which explains divergent responses to common pressure points and challenges. These themes of comparative studies are discussed further in Chap. 3.

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