Conceptualising need and the allocation of council housing: A study of housing need

Widdowfield, Rebekah Clare (1994) Conceptualising need and the allocation of council housing: A study of housing need. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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While the market remained the dominant mechanism in the distribution of resources, access to goods and services was primarily determined by "ability-to-pay" rather than need. However with the development of the welfare state in post-war Britain, the concept of need has acquired a much greater importance becoming established as the main basis for the distribution of state welfare.
Yet need is a contested and controversial concept, and the lack of clarity over what constitutes need has led to arguments particularly from the Right, that the term offers an unsuitable and unworkable basis for the provision of welfare. In the absence of a more acceptable alternative however, the principle of distribution according to need continues to guide the allocation of resources.
In the housing arena, local authorities are increasingly expected to assess housing needs as a preliminary step towards ensuring their satisfaction. Problems relating to the quantity, quality, suitability and affordability of housing have ensured a sustained demand for council housing which local authorities are increasingly unable to meet as their stock of housing is progressively reduced through the sale and transfer of council property. In such circumstances, allocation policies play a firndamental role in determining which households are housed and with what degree of priority.
This thesis therefore assesses how far the allocation of council housing is related to need both in policy and practice. Chapters One and Two provide the theoretical context for the study through an examination of the way need in general and housing need in particular has been conceptualised, defined and assessed in the existing literature. Following a review of housing policy in Chapter Three, the thesis then turns its attention more specifically to the allocation of housing. Chapter Four, considers the principles informing council allocation policies, whilst Chapter Five makes a comparative study of the allocations policies of a number of authorities based on questionnaire returns from a postal survey (using the Audit Commission's classification of local authorities into families to provide the sample frame), before presenting a more detailed case study of the allocation measures adopted by Preston Borough Council to deal with housing needs in the authority.

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