Quasi-marketising access to social housing in Britain: Assessing the distributional impacts

Hal Pawson, David Watkins

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    Since 2000 growing numbers of British social landlords have emulated their Dutch counterparts by introducing a 'quasi-market' approach to letting vacant properties. Known in Britain as choice-based lettings (CBL), the new approach aspires to treat people seeking social housing as consumers and to encourage consumerist behaviour. This is consistent with a wider drive for UK welfare state reforms emphasizing 'customer choice'. As in other policy areas (e.g., education and health) the widening of service-user choice in this area has given rise to concerns that a more market-like system could be to the detriment of already disadvantaged groups. In the CBL case, particular concerns have been expressed about the possible consequences for formerly homeless households. It has also been suggested that, in shifting responsibility for decisions on matching properties and people from landlords to house-seekers themselves, CBL might exacerbate ethnic segregation. Drawing on a government-commissioned study focusing on early CBL schemes in England and Scotland, this paper examines these hypotheses in the light of empirical evidence. The analysis finds no indication that formerly homeless households tend to be disadvantaged under CBL in terms of area popularity or property quality. And, in general, the system appears to produce a more spatially dispersed - rather than a more concentrated - pattern of lettings to ethnic minority households. © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)149-175
    Number of pages27
    JournalJournal of Housing and the Built Environment
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007


    • Ethnic segregation
    • Housing choice
    • Housing management
    • Housing policy
    • Public service reform
    • Residential mobility
    • Social housing


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