The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU Working Paper - No. 163

Urban public housing strategies in developing countries: paradigms, policies, programmes

Working Paper 163

19 January 2014

Universally, the production, maintenance and management of housing have been, and continue to be, marketbased activities. Nevertheless, since the mid-twentieth century virtually all governments, socialist and liberal alike, have perceived the need to intervene in urban housing markets in support of low-income households who are denied access to the established (private sector) housing market by their lack of financial resources.

This paper examines the range of strategic policy alternatives, employed by state housing agencies to this end. They range from public sector entry into the urban housing market through the direct construction of (‘conventional’) ‘public housing’ that is let or transferred to low-income beneficiaries at sub-market rates, to the provision of financial supports (subsidies) and other non-financial incentives to private sector producers and consumers of urban housing, and to the administration of (‘non-conventional’) programmes of social, technical and legislative supports that enable the production, maintenance and management of socially acceptable housing at prices and costs that are affordable to low income urban households and communities. It concludes with a brief review of the direction that public housing policies have been taking at the start of the twenty first century and reflects on “where next”, making a distinction between ‘public housing’ and ‘social housing’ strategies.