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Damned by place, then politics: spatial disadvantage and the housing policy-research interface


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Atkinson, RG and Jacobs, K 2010 , 'Damned by place, then politics: spatial disadvantage and the housing policy-research interface' , International Journal of Housing Policy, vol. 10, no. 2 , pp. 155-171 , doi: 10.1080/14616718.2010.480855.

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In this paper we engage with some fundamental questions about the focus and conduct
of academic research and its potential influence on policy in relation to social problems.
We use the example of public housing and social-spatial disadvantage as a basis to advance
an analysis of the housing researcher’s role in informing and framing the policymaking process
and its links to research evidence. Although our paper uses the example of Australia,
the arguments presented are also applicable to other nation states, such as the UK and US,
that have an under-funded public housing stock. The paper proceeds in three stages. First, we
detail the role and function of public housing in Australian cities and the politics surrounding
public investment in welfare provision. Second, we discuss a series of models developed
around the kind of research narratives that have been linked to policy on public housing and
neighbourhoods from the academy, arguing that the social composition and management of
‘place’ has been emphasised at the expense of structural imperatives. Third, we examine some
of the more abstract concerns raised by the linkages we make, and the potentially delimited
role of academic research on social problems such as poverty and locational disadvantage.
We conclude the paper by arguing that the weak position of housing research has fuelled an
internalised narrative-driven pragmatic realism that has occluded more useful accounts about
the nature of social problems. It is therefore incumbent on researchers to challenge, in a more
vigorous way, the narratives underpinning this self-restraining form of policy-realism.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Atkinson, RG and Jacobs, K
Keywords: Neighbourhood effects, social science, evidence, progress, housing, Australia, research, policy
Journal or Publication Title: International Journal of Housing Policy
ISSN: 1461-6718
DOI / ID Number: 10.1080/14616718.2010.480855
Additional Information:

The definitive version is available online at

Copyright © 2009 Taylor & Francis

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