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DISCUSS THE CONTENTION THAT HOUSING TENURE IS NOW LESS IMPORTANT FOR

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Introduction

DISCUSS THE CONTENTION THAT HOUSING TENURE IS NOW LESS IMPORTANT FOR DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN SOCIAL CLASSES THAN IN THE 1950S "Does housing in general, and home ownership in particular, comprise anything more than just a class-related distributive outcome?" (Hamnett 1995:257) Hamnett posed this question in 1995 in his paper 'Home Ownership and the Middle Classes'. He went on to investigate possible answers in much the same way as I intend to discuss the contention that housing tenure is now less important for distinguishing between social classes than in the 1950s. Housing has always been of interest to geographers and sociologists alike, in their quest to determine social stratification and in their investigation into the various relationships between society and space. Indeed in the 1950s social theorists and policy analysts were mainly concerned with the reconstruction and repair of the post war society and the housing issues relating to that, in particular a desperate need and demand for an increased and improved council stock. However since then, and certainly in the latter half of the twentieth century, their focus has fallen much more on tenure, especially the continual rise of home ownership, its causes, its effects and specifically its relationship with class. In thins essay I will briefly give a description of housing tenure and an explanation of social classes (as seen from two view points) in order to set the scene. I then propose to paint a social picture of the 1950s and the ideas surrounding housing tenure and social classes at the time, and indeed their importance. ...read more.

Middle

These problems were almost solely associated with the working class and consequently there was huge pressure put on what was left of the council sector. In response, when the conservatives came into power in 1951 they built more council houses (180 000 a year between 1951 and 1957) than any other government before or since (Hamnett, 1999). Until this point housing tenure was still one of the most important distinguishing features between the social classes. The working class could not afford private rental accommodation, not least possess their own home. However it is from this point that the relationship between housing tenure and social class began to alter as tenure changes in Britain started to occur. The new high quality council housing built in the 1950s attracted the skilled working class who, as the economy began to improve, were better able to afford the higher rents than their semi-skilled and unskilled cohorts, and before long the higher earning working class began to enter the home ownership market. At the same time the number of middle class home owners rose dramatically, 67.3% of professionals and managers owned their own home in 1961 (Hamnett, 1999), and fewer and fewer people were renting from the private sector. Despite the rise in working class homeowners the relationship between tenure and class was essentially maintained during the 1960s and 1970s. Commentators such as P. Saunders (1984) and J. Rex & R. Moore (1967) still believed housing to be the most important definition of class. ...read more.

Conclusion

He went on to provide figures supporting the idea that the middle classes have bigger, better quality homes than those of the home owner working class. So although tenure is no longer important, housing is. In 1987 Forest and Murie launched a research project that was designed to explore aspects of social differentiation within the owner occupied sector. However they found that in the top end of the owner occupied market "for those more affluent households who are able to exercise choice some may choose not to maximise housing expenditure or status for various reasons" (Forrest & Murie 1987:335) this can then "distort the simple relationships between labour market position and position in the owner occupied market" (Forrest & Murie, 1987:336). There is evidence to support both sides of the argument and I am sure it is an area that will prompt continual and further discussion in future years. In conclusion I would support the contention that housing tenure is now less important for distinguishing between social classes than in the 1950s. I believe it can still be used loosely in the respect that the semi-skilled and unskilled working class predominantly occupies the council sector. However I believe that owner occupation no longer denotes a simple single class and therefore it is wrong to use tenure to distinguish between classes in this way. What I would say to close is that housing tenure should by no means be abandoned. It still has importance in other areas of social structure, perhaps in terms of gender and race, and should therefore be regarded as a key aspect to social theory and research. ...read more.

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