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By Peter King

Housing: Who Decides? comprises a debate among a political theorist and an economist on choice making in housing. each one writer develops a normative argument linking theoretical and coverage analyses to set up the talents of the country and members to figure out housing results. This problems with redistribution and selection are obvious as an important to this debate. Following those preliminary contributions the writer have interaction with one another on particular proposals for the reform of housing within the UK.

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Indeed, as Sen (1992) has suggested, when one discusses equality it is always equality of something. Thus equality never involves purely abstract questions. The issue, for Sen, is therefore to establish equality of what? So when egalitarians discuss equality it is with some goods, service or issue in mind. There is though an immediate problem even with this qualified form of equality; namely, on what basis it is assumed that equality should apply to the particular good and service. Presumably it is because individuals are already assumed to be equal.

In Britain concern has been expressed that teenage girls deliberately become pregnant to ‘jump the housing queue’ as lone parents’ (1997, p. 26, my emphasis). Hills quotes a 1991 study by Bradshaw and Millar which purportedly found little evidence for young women becoming deliberately pregnant. On the basis of this, Hills dismisses Murray’s notion that benefits alter behaviour. There are two points to consider here; firstly, whether Murray’s views are being accurately described – and the word ‘deliberate’ is important here – and secondly, that there appears to be a paradox whereby structures are seen to constrain and limit behaviour, in terms of employment and consumption, yet changes in that structure caused by increased benefits are seen as not causing any change in behaviour.

This means that when considering housing the concept of need is also apparent. In conventional policy terms housing need is used to refer to those households unable to provide for themselves. As I have discussed elsewhere (King, 1996, 1998a, 1998b) this is to confuse need with its fulfilment. My contention is that need should not be seen as a lack of something, but as a necessity. This means that the need does not diminish even when it is fulfilled. But this view of need means that it is overlaid with the issue of the means of fulfilment.

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