At home and in place? The role of housing in social inclusion

Kath Hulse, Keith Jacobs, Kathryn Arthurson, Angela Spinney

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    Aim This is the Final Report from a project that aims to enhance understanding of aspects of home, housing and place which interact with social and economic disadvantage and the ways in which housing-related policies and programs can promote social inclusion. The project has three broad research questions: 1. How do housing processes affect the ways in which low-income households experience disadvantages? 2. How effective are current housing-related programs in promoting social inclusion? 3. What lessons can be learnt from international good practice in the evaluation of housing policies that aim to achieve social inclusion? Research approach and methods The research approach comprised two stages. Firstly, conceptual development to understand the linkages between housing processes and social inclusion/exclusion, based on an extensive review of relevant academic and policy literature. Secondly, an empirical component that consisted of two case studies-Australia (South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria as embedded units of analysis) and the UK (with England as the unit of analysis). The case study method involved interviews with key informants, a review of policy documents, and an analysis of evaluation material. Conceptual framework The concept of social inclusion/exclusion has been used to refer to reform within the administration of government and more broadly in changing the relationships between government, markets and civil society. The aim is to provide more effective services that start with the needs of individuals or families, or people living in particular places, and include new ways of people participating in decisions that affect them through: Joined-up' or 'whole of government' approaches which refer to mechanisms for coordination across levels of government (vertical coordination) and portfolio areas (horizontal coordination). Network governance arrangements in which the not-for-profit sector, and sometimes the for-profit sector, play an important role in addressing social exclusion and promoting social inclusion. Membership of a community involving social connectedness and economic participation. Having a home, living in appropriate housing and belonging to place all have a role to play in social inclusion/exclusion. All are affected by the interaction of housing market factors, government policies and the preferences and actions of individuals/households over time, which we refer to as housing processes. It is widely recognised that people can be excluded from housing. They can also be excluded from society through housing processes, for example, living in poor quality accommodation, living in housing types or neighbourhoods that are unsafe, being restricted to accessing housing in areas with poor transport links or few job prospects, or living in places with inadequate facilities and poor access to services. It is neither accurate nor useful to think in terms of a dichotomy between those who are housed (included) and those who are not housed (excluded). Housing-related policies and programs within a social inclusion framework The research identified several different types of housing-related policies and programs using a threefold typology of social exclusion developed in the UK (Miliband 2006): 1. Deep social exclusion refers to relatively small numbers of people who are disadvantaged and marginalised as a result of multiple and overlapping factors that often accumulate over time. Examples of housing-related policies and programs include homelessness prevention and intervention, targeting 'at risk' population groups, and addressing behaviours associated with disadvantage that have an impact on place. 2. Concentrated social exclusion refers to a clustering of people with multiple disadvantages in particular locations, where this might in itself result in further disadvantage. Examples of housing-related policies and programs are targeting services to people in disadvantaged places and comprehensive area-based initiatives. 3. Wide social exclusion refers to situations where a large number of people may be excluded on one or two dimensions of disadvantage. Examples of housing-related policies and programs are: improving the condition and standard of social housing, increasing the supply of social and affordable rental housing, and interventions to improve the functioning of housing markets to enable social inclusion. The social inclusion/exclusion agenda in both case-study countries placed considerable priority on addressing deep social exclusion through services to individuals and targeting services to people with complex needs living in disadvantaged areas. In England, and to a lesser extent in the Australian states, comprehensive place-based approaches have also been an important part of the social exclusion agenda.areabased approaches are expensive and require sustained commitment over a long period to produce results; however, the scale of investment is relatively small in the context of mainstream service provision to such areas. They generate considerable local activity and innovation. 'Whole of government' approaches are widely supported but are difficult to achieve in practice as some mainstream agencies have national/state agendas and it is difficult for them to focus on small areas (education, health, workforce development and even housing). Local partnerships are an important part of place-based approaches. They extend beyond 'whole of government' approaches to include some local residents, third sector representatives and business. Involvement of residents is beneficial at a number of levels but most residents do not engage with these processes and some move away if their personal circumstances improve. Expenditure on housing improvement and other physical improvements is costly but does signify serious intent in improving an area and helps residents to feel better about living there. Large programs take time to scale up and it is important to be realistic about what can and cannot be achieved within particular time frames to prevent cynicism and burnout. There are variable results in improving outcomes for people in terms of education, health and worklessness. Clear strategies are required to 'end' place-based programs and to ensure that the benefits generated over a long period do not simply dissipate when the program ends. Evaluation Evaluation has been an important part of the social inclusion/exclusion agenda in Australia and the UK, in part stimulated by other developments in governance including performance management, value auditing and evidence-based policy making. These developments mean that, while process evaluations remain important, the social inclusion/exclusion agenda has placed considerable emphasis on evaluation of outcomes and cost efficiency and effectiveness of social policies. It is critical to recognise that good evaluation is not an 'add-on'-it requires planning and the development of clear and robust evaluation frameworks that specify targets, establish baseline data, and develop clear indicators to measure change over time. Evaluation design must address issues of causality, including addressing the following questions: How do the outcomes for the population group/area compare with those for similar groups/areas and in relation to national/state benchmarks? How do the outcomes compare with what would have happened if the policy or program had not been introduced (the counterfactual)? How we know that it was the intervention that led to the changes that have been identified and not some other factor? Assessing the outcomes of housing-related policies and programs to improve social inclusion and address social exclusion is complex. It is desirable to engage independent evaluators to ensure that the evaluation is credible. There is typically a period of at least two or three years before a baseline is established or any interim findings are available. It is important to generate findings progressively and disseminate them widely, since political policy cycles are often quite short. Evaluation of housing-related policies and programs has mostly applied to new initiatives rather than mainstream policies and programs.

    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationMelbourne
    Number of pages117
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2011

    Publication series

    NameAHURI Final Report


    • Home
    • Housing
    • Inclusion
    • Social


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