Most governments are focused on promoting sustainability in different areas of the economy. Amongst the approaches that governments have entrenched in the pursuit to achieve sustainability entails formulating policies and strategies aimed at shaping sustainable development (Atkinson & Kintrea 2000). One of the fundamental dimensions of sustainability that governments are committed at enhancing entails the social dimension. This aspect is underlined by the government’s focus on the social housing policy. Under the social housing policy, governments intend to enhance social mix and diversify housing tenure especially in the deprived areas. The rationale of the social housing policy is to promote social cohesion and establishment of sustainable communities (Livingston, Kearns & Bannister 2014). The UK is one of the countries that has entrenched social housing policy. In addition to promoting cohesion, the social housing policy is aimed at addressing housing inequality, which has become a major challenge in the UK. This paper compares and contrasts the ways in which housing inequalities are discussed from the perspectives of social policy and criminology and economics.
Social policy and criminology
In spite of the government’s effort to promote social housing policy, the policy has not achieved the intended outcome as evidenced by the growing housing inequality. According to Office of National Statistics (2015), the European region is characterised by two main phenomenons with reference to housing. On one hand, homeownership has increased substantially while on the other, the cost of housing has also increased (Filandri & Olagnero 2014). The high cost of housing has contributed to considerable decline in the living standards especially in the low income households. A study conducted in 2013 revealed existence of overcrowded housing especially amongst low income households (Filandri & Olagnero 2014).
The high cost of housing in the UK has adversely affected the living standards of most households. The high demand for housing compared to the supply of houses has led to overcrowding hence limiting the effectiveness of the social housing policy in promoting social cohesion (Department for Communities and Local Government 2016). According to Livingston, Kearns and Bannister (2014), a positive correlation exists between overcrowded neighbourhood and the rate of crime. This aspect is evidenced by graph 1 below, which shows that rate of crime is relatively high within the most deprived communities compared to least deprived communities.
According to the graph, the most deprived neighbourhoods are characterised by a high rate of crime and housing inequality compared to the least deprived neighbourhoods. Individuals living in overcrowded neighbourhoods are deprived of basic necessities. Living in such communities increases the likelihood of negative socialisation. Socialisation or change in individual behaviour occurs through a contagion effect. Livingston, Kearns and Bannister (2014) assert that ‘it is easier to do what others do than not’ (p. 4). Thus, it is possible to persuade an individual to engage in unsocial behaviour such as crime especially if they live in poverty and are deprived of basic resources.
Negative socialisation might lead to involvement in illicit behaviours such as drug abuse (Livingston, Kearns & Bannister 2014). For example, youths living in such societies are exposed to negative peer influence. Additionally, they may also be taught by their peers on how to survive under such poor living conditions through involvement in criminal activities. Development of such negative behaviour might lead to adverse long term effects. Filandri and Olagnero (2014) accentuates that considering the fact that individuals living in overcrowded neighbourhoods experience similar housing inequalities, it is relatively difficult for such communities to exercise informal social control, which makes the incidence of crime to remain high. This underlines the fact that the country’s social housing policy has not succeeded in addressing the problem posed by housing inequalities.
The housing inequality problem is also associated with the prevalence of economic differences, specifically income inequality, which refers to the gap between the rich and the poor. Belfield et al. (2015) affirm that income inequality is relatively high amongst the youth compared to the old. Despite the fact that the UK is ranked as one of the developed economies, the country is characterised by significant income inequalities. Belfield et al. (2015) affirm that income inequality in the UK has changed marginally over the past few years. During the 2013/2014 fiscal year, individuals within the high income group experienced a considerable increase in the level of income compared to their households in the low income group. The increase in income inequality was as associated with decline in the country’s economic growth. Subsequently, the level of income poverty, which according to Belfield et al. (2015) is a measure of relative poverty amongst households, remained high. As a measure of household’s economic wellbeing, income poverty examines the whether the change in the level of income within the low income household groups is aligned to the growth experienced by the high income household group (Belfield et al. 2015).
The prevalence of high income poverty in the UK has contributed to increase in housing inequalities. Households in the high income group are able to purchase or rent private houses hence limiting their dependence on social housing (Office of National Statistics 2015). This aspect is illustrated by a survey conducted in England and Wales in 2015. According to the survey, the proportion of high income households who owned homes was significantly high. On the other hand, most of the households in middle and low income groups depended on private rented and social rented houses as illustrated by graph 2 below.
According to graph 2, households in the high income group are more likely to own a home compared to households in the middle and low income group. This indicates the impact of economic differences on the prevalence of inequalities with reference to housing.
The analysis affirms that there is a positive relationship between housing inequalities and the social policy and the rate of crime. The failure of the social policy in addressing housing inequalities contribute to increase the rate of crime because of overcrowding and negative socialisation. Moreover, housing inequalities is aslso associated with the prevalence of economic differences between the high and low income household groups.
Atkinson, R & Kintrea, K 2000, ‘Owner-occupation, social mix and neighbourhood impacts’, Policy and Politics, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 93– 108.
Belfield, C, Cribb, J, Hood, A & Joyce, R 2015, Living standards, poverty and inequality in the UK.[Online]. Available at: https://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/publications/comms/R107.pdf (Accessed November 29, 2016).
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Filandri, M & Olagnero, M 2014, ‘Housing inequality and social class in Europe’, Housing Studies, vol. 29, no. 7, pp. 977-993.
Livingston, M, Kearns, A & Bannister, J 2014, ‘Neighbourhood structures and crime; the influence of tenure mix and other structural factors upon local crime rates’, Housing Studies, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 1-25.
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