Urban Governance, Policy, Planning and Housing

It goes without saying that housing is central to and shaped by urbanisation processes. The design of homes has a primary bearing on the spatial footprint of cities, and the relationship amongst housing, transport networks and employment, determines the special logic of urban regions. The location and quality of homes within their neighbourhood context may also reflect cultural and individualised norms and preferences whilst also reinforcing societal differences in wealth and access to economic opportunity. For all of these reasons, housing should occupy a central focus of contemporary urban governance and planning. Yet in many nations, housing has failed to sustain this focus. Under the wider influence of neoliberalism, government intervention—through the delivery of public housing or the regulation of private development—has been seen to inhibit the housing market.

This is despite the co-evolution of housing and urban policy over the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Concerns about the inadequate housing conditions of the industrialising cities, particularly in the UK, America, and parts of Europe, gave rise to the earliest public health laws which served as the precursors to modern urban planning

© The Author(s) 2017

N. Gurran, G. Bramley, Urban Planning and the Housing Market, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-46403-3_2

regulation. However, in many ways and in many nations, housing has been relegated to one of a number of thematic concerns facing urban policy makers—alongside transport, commercial and industrial development and environmental protection to name a few. Further, many other policy arenas have direct or indirect implications for housing which, if not considered explicitly within an urban policy framework, can lead to perverse outcomes. For example, whilst an emphasis of contemporary urban policy and planning is to manage the outward expansion of growth, to ensure the location of new housing development in serviceable areas near employment centres, and to preserve environmental resources, fiscal policies often encourage investment in housing as an asset class or source of government revenue, whilst economic policies might seek to maximise new housing construction for regional and local employment.

In this context, this chapter introduces the evolution of modern urban planning, then outlines contemporary normative urban planning goals and their implications for housing as an organising force in urban and regional structure. This sets a framework for the second half of the chapter, which explains the basic rationale for urban planning as a particular form of government intervention in the urban development process (as opposed to other instruments for controlling land use and construction, such as building codes and private property law). The chapter also explains the key elements of the planning process as a basis for comparing systems from different countries and the potential implications for new housing development.

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