This paper seeks to rebuild and strengthen the case for policy-related comparative housing research as an academic activity. Critiques that have discouraged the practice of international research have undermined its legitimacy whilst eroding the evidence base, and have devalued its function through the use of value-laden language and unevidenced assertions. While ‘glocalisation’ presents a challenge to cross-national research we argue that nation states are still policy resource rich, and that the existence of distinctive national institutions through which common international pressures are mediated strengthens the case for it. Building on an examination of the distinctive qualities of housing compared to the main ‘pillars’ of the welfare state, we make the case for what we call ‘system-embedded research’. This marks a development from existing ‘middle ways’, being founded on the principle that policy is conceived within wider housing systems and housing systems themselves operate within wider social and economic structures. Through contrasting case studies we show that if founded on the principle of being system-embedded, policy-related comparative housing research can reap high rewards; but if it does not it carries grave risks.
- comparative research methods