Comparison of Social Housing in Three Areas of Practice

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Greta WERNER, The University of Sydney, Australia
This paper reports on a study of social housing in three areas of practice. The research compares housing in Sydney, Australia, where around 5% of households live in social housing, with Vienna, Austria, where around 60% of households live in social housing and with Singapore, where more than 80% of households live in social housing, to identify practices which support government provision of housing.

A theoretical framework is constructed to analyze social housing using Fligstein and McAdam’s (2012) theory of fields, which draws on Bourdieu’s concepts of field, habitus and capital to develop a spacial analysis of housing infrastructure. The term ‘spacial’ is used in Lefebvre’s sense of social space, which includes both physical and relational aspects.

Fligstein and McAdam view strategic action fields as constructed social orders on which economic, civil society and government organisations are built (Fligstein and McAdam 2012: 2). Within these fields, actors work strategically for advantage, both material and ‘existential’ (Fligstein and McAdam 2012: 3). Existential advantage refers to meaning-making projects which ultimately seek to avoid the emptiness of Nagel’s (1986) ‘outer perspective’. To combat meaninglessness, skilled social actors create meaning and order for themselves and others towards evolving collective ends. However, the meaning projects of groups thus formed can compete with those of other groups, in which case agenda setting and agreement on definitions of the situation are key to maintaining advantage in negotiations (Fligstein and McAdam 2012: 51).

This framework highlights the processes which lead to the material and spacial organization of the city and housing in particular, by focusing on both the meanings and physical effects of practices. The framework is used to understand how government agencies, firms and non-government organisations involved in housing provision seek to transform space according to their values.