The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction


Lois Yixi Liao

Economic and Socio-Psychological Analyses of Social Housing Policies in the U.K. 

School Research Theme: Behavioural Economics in Housing Markets
Research supervisors:  Prof Michelle Baddeley; Dr Aniket Kumar
Start date: 2 November 2015

Whilst access to housing is a fundamental part of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it remains an unfulfilled objective in the U.K. On the contrary, the U.K. housing crisis has continued to worsen, with housing affordability deteriorating significantly since the 1980s due to the increased financialisation of housing. The crisis is particularly reflected in the social housing sector, where contemporary discussions on potential drivers have focused on structural ‘supply’ and other issues that can be easily materialised or quantified. However, issues beyond supply have often been overlooked in quantitative housing studies. Therefore, I aim to bridge the research gap by discussing social housing issues beyond ‘bricks and mortar’. This paper contributes to two further research gaps. First, there remains limited attempts in bringing Bourdieusian social theories into social housing studies and policy making. Second, incorporating computational modelling into social housing studies remains an under-explored area. The analysis is predominantly based on a case study of London, utilising Zoopla rental listings and granular neighbourhood data. The main research methods involve a range of econometric techniques including hedonic modelling, spatial analysis and panel data regression. Furthermore, I apply computational simulation methods including agent-based modelling and Monte-Carlo simulations. The findings draw the following key insights. First, residents and relocators make housing choices to maximise both material and objective benefits, as well as immaterial and subjective benefits. Second, distinct habitus exists between family and non-family households, between different socio-economic statuses, and between suburban and Central London locations. In addition, migrants carry their habitus into their newly migrated country, which may be conveyed in their benefit claiming behaviour. The research findings suggest that a multi-agency partnership is required to establish a sustainable social housing policy framework. Moreover, there is a need to critically reassess the fundamental philosophy of the current social housing policies.

Publications and other work