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  • Author or Editor: Moira Munro x
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This article uses qualitative data to explore in detail owners’ accounts of why they choose to undertake particular works on their houses. It argues that motivation is strongly linked to the importance people place on their homes as a site of comfort and the locus of family life. This suggests that ‘consumption’-motivated expenditure is frequently prioritised rather than ‘investment’ motivated work. This helps explain why there is considerable disrepair identified in the owner-occupied stock, despite owners’ apparently good intentions and considerable ongoing expenditure on the stock. It also suggests that policy measures predicated on evaluating owners’ returns from investing in their housing and altering such incentives are unlikely to be sufficient to solve problems of underinvestment in owner-occupied housing. A detailed linking of motivations and constraints that affect owners across the life-course enables a mapping of the points at which disrepair is likely to occur and become problematic, and indicates the likely potential for and limits to policy measures designed to tackle disrepair in the owner-occupied sector.

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Housing has often been regarded as a ‘wobbly pillar’ of the welfare state due to its disjointed position between the public and private realms and the intractability of some problems to policy solutions. Indeed, we can ask whether a ‘housing sector’ exists at all, due to complex systems of governance, financialisation, policy divergence and overall fragmentation of housing-related social policy throughout the UK. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of housing policy, putting ‘the home’ and neighbourhoods into the spotlight. This chapter looks at some of the key emerging and re-emerging issues for housing policy in the UK through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic. The chapter firstly outlines why housing was considered the ‘wobbly pillar’ going into 2019, including issues surrounding the financialisation of housing. Key COVID-19 housing-related policy responses are then examined in the context of emerging evidence that the pandemic is reinforcing inequalities in housing. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated underlying housing issues faced by more vulnerable groups, yet it has also created an opportunity to showcase radical policy options and highlight the importance of future-proofing housing to be more flexible, dynamic and better quality.

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