Assessing the changing dynamics of housing policy since 2007: a policy paradigms approach

  • Jules H Birch

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Social Science (DSocSci)


If the aftermath of a crisis should be fertile territory for policy change, then housing in England in the period since 2007 should be a textbook case. The period began with a Global Financial Crisis that brought the financial system to the point of collapse and has been punctuated by the political crisis of Brexit, the calamity of the Grenfell Tower fire and then the Covid-19 pandemic. All this amidst a growing sense of ‘housing crisis’ that encompasses unaffordable house prices and rents, rising homelessness and insecurity and a sense that the opportunities of home ownership are being denied to younger generations.
This research seeks to test the extent and the nature of policy change in housing since the financial crisis. It uses the concept of policy paradigms to study the ideational frameworks that guide policy makers’ understanding of how their world works and should work and the nature of the problems that policy is meant to be addressing. Putting housing in the context of wider developments in welfare and macro-economic policy and political economy, it investigates how policy has changed since 2007 and whether this amounts to a change in policy paradigm.
Interpretive analysis is used to study the cognitive and normative frames that policy actors use to make sense of policy problems and solutions and the different understandings that result. The research analyses data from two sources - key policy documents and semi- structured interviews with key policy actors inside and outside government – and triangulates between them.
The study finds that a ‘social housing’ paradigm in operation in England since the 1980s has undergone ideational collapse under the impact of changes in welfare, fiscal and monetary policies and financial regulation. A new framework of ‘affordable housing’ looks more like an attempt to rationalise this collapse than a new paradigm.
Date of Award24 Jun 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorAlex D Marsh (Supervisor) & Patricia A Kennett (Supervisor)


  • Housing
  • Policy paradigms
  • Global Financial Crisis
  • Political economy
  • Machinery of government
  • Home ownership
  • Private renting
  • Social housing
  • Affordable housing
  • Housebuilding
  • Housing crisis

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