II International Perspectives on Planning, Housing Supply and Affordability

This part contains a series of empirical case study chapters, examining the ways in which systems of urban governance and housing provision have evolved in Britain, the USA, Ireland, Hong Kong/China and Australia. These countries represent a spectrum of approaches to urban regulation and housing policy, in the context of very different settlement geographies, demographic trends and governance arrangements. All countries face comparable challenges of rising inequality, global economic and environmental uncertainty, demographic change, all of which have played out in housing system instability and deepening affordability problems for low and moderate income earners. Yet to date the range of approaches adopted to address these challenges appear bounded by culturally embedded notions about property ownership and housing development, as well as long-standing political forces. Collectively, the case studies presented in the following chapters present no easy answers to debates about whether these countries are exhibiting convergence in response to common challenges, or remain bound by historically determined path dependencies. Nevertheless, for researchers, policy makers, and practitioners keen to gain clearer insights into the underlying nature of urban and housing problems, there is value in careful and systematic comparison with other places. Such comparison can expose the ways in which long-standing traditions of administration and politics come to delimit the local policy imagination. Informed comparison can also highlight the futility in superficial forms of policy ‘shopping’ or ‘mimicry’ where the aesthetic or language of a policy or programme is imported from overseas without attention to context. At the same time, and as we think the very mixed housing and planning practices and experiences outlined in the following chapters show, comparative research also offers a powerful lens for lesson learning and policy development.

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