Affordability for housing association tenants. A key issue for British social housing policy

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Kearns, A. (1992)

As a result of changes to the financial regime for housing associations, affordability has become a major issue of debate in social rented housing in Britain. This paper assesses the implications of trying to construct a finance system for housing associations based on a regime of ‘affordable rents’ and the ‘safety net’ of Housing Benefits but with the state declining to define the central concept of affordability. Using examples of a number of Western countries, and empirical evidence from the sector in Scotland, the present position is criticised, and a route out of the policy vacuum is suggested. This is founded on the premise that housing is a means rather than an end, within a broader social policy. Given the political constraints, one solution lies in studies of the expenditure patterns and standards of living of different groups of housing association tenants, and in the creation of a sector-specific organisational subsidy to be available in addition to the usual producer- and consumer-subsidies.
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