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Housing

Pacione, Michael (2009) Housing. In: International Encyclopaedia of Human Geography. Elsevier, pp. 196-200. ISBN 9780080449104

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Abstract

The availability of shelter is a basic human need. Western governments have adopted different attitudes towards meeting this need. At one extreme, housing is regarded as a consumer good rather than a social entitlement. In the USA the government provides only 1% of the total stock in the form of social housing, primarily as a complement to private urban renewal programs, and this effort is directed mainly at the poor, one-parent households, nonworking families with dependent children, or the low-income elderly. At the other extreme, in the former communist states of Eastern Europe, housing was long considered a universal right and an essential part of the 'social capital', although in practice the inability of state resources to meet housing demand led to promotion of alternative forms of provision, including housing cooperatives and owner-occupation. The intermediate position is illustrated by the states of Western Europe, in which housing is considered to be a limited social right, and where the state has intervened in the housing market to ensure a basic level of shelter for the majority of the population. In the absence of intervention, between one-quarter and one-third of the total population of most Western European countries would be unable to meet the full economic cost of the housing it occupies. In most large cities of the Third World a majority of the population occupy rudimentary self-constructed forms of shelter or literally live without a roof over their heads.