The Big Society, Localism & Housing Policy

ESRC funded Seminar Series, 2013-14

‘The Big Society’ and ‘Localism’


have become buzz words since the formation of the coalition government in 2010, and their influence can already be seen in housing policy and practice across the UK.  This varies however depending on how devolved administrations and local authorities use their powers and budgets.  Devolving power downwards may therefore lead to greater divergence in housing policy than we have seen under devolution so far.


Understanding the varied geographical impact of these ideas is a key aim of this series, which will be held in Sheffield, Belfast and St Andrews during 2013-14.

Seminar 1: Localism and the Big Society – what do they mean for housing studies?

Sheffield, 7-8 March 2013. View the presentations for the event here.


Key questions for the day included:

  • What’s new about the ‘big society’ and ‘localism’?
  • What problems and opportunities do the ‘big society’ and ‘localism’ offer for housing policy?
  • What are – and should be – the respective roles of the public, private and third sectors in housing-related service provision? Where do communities fit in?  What should be the role and agenda of housing scholars?
  • To what extent can the ideals of the ‘big society’ (and localism) be realised in, and reconciled with, austerity and cuts?

Seminar 2: Localism, Welfare Reform and Tenure Restructuring in the UK

Belfast, 24-25 October 2013


Key questions for the day include:

  • What do the concepts of ‘localism’,  the’ big society’ and the ‘broken society’ analysis imply for the future of the UK welfare state and citizenship?
  • What will be the impact of welfare reform on the ability of low-income groups to access and remain in social housing?
  • Will the proposed planning reforms in different parts of the UK affect housing supply, and if so how?
  • As a consequence of the above, might the combination of localism and welfare reform result in a change in the tenure balance across the UK, and would there be any differences between the four jurisdictions?  Would these changes be particularly detrimental to lower-income households?


Seminar 3: The Big Society, Localism and the Future of Social Housing

St Andrews, 13-14 March 2014


Key questions for the day include:

  • What lessons can the co-operative and mutual sector offer for the housing association sector?
  • What does ‘new municipalism’ mean for social housing provision?  How is this likely to impact on future business models within the non-profit housing sector?
  • What do the proposals for ‘flexible’ social housing tenancies mean for the future of social housing provision?
  • Should social housing be simply a welfare-safety net for the most vulnerable groups?  What effects does this have on social-spatial polarisation?

Funded by the ESRC these two-day events aim to bring together scholars at the cutting edge of research to explore the latest issues and debates in the emerging fields of housing, localism and the Big Society.

The inter-disciplinary seminars will seek to benefit policymakers and practitioners, and to involve early-career as well as established academics, offering an opportunity to extend existing working relationships and establish new ones.

The seminar series has now finished. For more on the findings of the series, view our publications page. Contact the Project Administrator for further information and follow us on Twitter for regular updates.

In association with

The project team


This seminar series is a collaborative project, led by the Centre for Housing Research, St Andrews.  Team members include:


Dr Kim McKee, University of St Andrews (Principal Investigator)

Dr Jenny Muir, Queens University Belfast (Co-Investigator)

Prof. Duncan Maclennan, University of St Andrews (Co-Investigator)

Prof. John Flint, University of Sheffield (Co-Investigator)

Dr Ed Ferrari, University of Sheffield (Co-Investigator)

Prof. David Clapham, University of Reading (Co-Investigator)

Dr Tom Moore, University of Sheffield (Project Administrator)

Next seminar


The seminar series has now finished.

For more on the findings of the series, view our publications page.

@housingseminars -- follow us on twitter for up to date information on seminars