The Big Society, Localism & Housing Policy

ESRC funded Seminar Series, 2013-14

Seminar 2: Localism, welfare reform and tenure restructuring in the UK

By admin
Oct 16, 2013 Uncategorized

Seminar 2: Localism, welfare reform and tenure restructuring in the UK

Dr Jenny Muir, Queen’s University Belfast


The second seminar in the series will held at Queen’s University Belfast next week, on 24th and 25th October. The seminar is fully booked, with a good mix of academics, policy-makers and practitioners. Given that devolution is one of our concerns, it’s also good to see a combination of locals and those who have discovered Belfast isn’t really that far away. For those who are visiting, coincidentally the seminar takes place at the same time as the first few days of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s, so there will be plenty to do if you want to stay a little longer.


The seminar series is taking place over eighteen months in which the Coalition government is attempting to operationalise its new policy agenda on welfare reform. The impact is now beginning to be felt, particularly the bedroom tax in England, Scotland and Wales. Other measures that have not yet been introduced are causing considerable anxiety. This seminar considers the impact of welfare reform on individuals and also on less well off communities. Is there an inherent contradiction between welfare reform and localism? How can social capital be built in poorer areas if population turnover increases due to welfare issues? Can the social economy really save the day?


It’s also a good time to review the political concepts of the Big Society and ‘Broken Britain’. Was Britain ever really ‘broken’? And does the ‘Big Society’ still have any meaning? Politically it is now very low profile, and the idea never really took hold in the devolved nations. Where are we going theoretically with these ideas and how do they fit into the bigger picture of a UK in which neoliberalised austerity continues to dominate? Our international speaker for this seminar is from Canada, where they have experienced a similar approach and we shall hear about its impact on housing policy.


The seminar examines the implications of these issues for access to housing and asks whether we are starting to see quite fundamental changes to the housing system, for example tenure restructuring such as an increase in the size of the private rented sector at the expense of both social housing and owner occupation. Where does this leave the ideology of home ownership which has been the cornerstone of UK housing policy for so long? Help to Buy has provoked debate on the undersupply of housing, again highlighting a contradiction between local interests and national priorities, as well as the role of planning policy. And in the case of social housing, how are housing providers coping with the double pressure of poorer tenants and less subsidy for new build? We shall also reflect on differences in the implementation and impact of housing reforms and policies across the UK.


Presentations and papers will be available on the seminar web site in early November and you can follow the event on Twitter using the hashtag #housingseminars and by following our dedicated @housingseminars feed.


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