In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Housing

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • Bibliographies
  • Trends and Statistics
  • Homeownership
  • Affordable Housing
  • Segregation and Fair Housing
  • Mortgage Crises
  • Policies
  • Research Organizations
  • Policy Organizations

Social Work Housing
Anna Maria Santiago
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 July 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0140


Beginning in the early 2000s the availability of affordable housing worsened in US cities and throughout the world as property values climbed and then fell precipitously with the collapse of global housing and financial markets, concurrent stagnation of wages, sharp increase in rents, and dwindling supply of housing units available to low-income households. The United Nations estimated that at the end of the first decade of the 21st century one in three people across the world lived in severely distressed housing conditions—a situation that is expected to worsen as urbanization rates continue to climb. In the United States approximately one-third of the population lives in neighborhoods deemed unsafe or in housing that is physically inadequate, overcrowded, or well beyond the ability of average families to afford. While the nature and magnitude of housing issues vary across developed, developing, and transitional societies, increasing income inequality between the rich and the poor; enduring patterns of residential segregation by race, ethnicity, or class; rising land and housing construction costs; and the lack of affordable housing are common concerns. Existing literature on housing focuses on seven major topics: methods and approaches to housing research and practice; economics and finance; environments; homelessness; community institutions; housing policy; and welfare and well-being. It draws on multiple disciplinary perspectives, including community psychology, demography, economics, geography, planning, political science, public policy, sociology, social welfare, and urban affairs. While focusing primarily on the literature about housing in the United States, this bibliography includes cross-national literature about housing policy and practice. More efficient provision of housing services, lower occupancy costs, expanded residential choice, and greater housing stability and security have been proposed as effective strategies to enhance household well-being and reduce the need for social welfare services.

General Overviews

Michelson and Van Vliet 2000 provides a comprehensive yet concise history of housing research and traces the evolution of housing policies and programs across different societal contexts (e.g., market systems, welfare states, socialist states). Von Hoffman, et al. 2006 offers the most complete review of scholarly theories and empirical research about the ways housing markets impact community. The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT)—the agency mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities as well as adequate shelter for all people—is one of the premier sources of data offering timely, authoritative research on world housing conditions, housing trends, concerns, policies, and programs. UN-HABITAT has launched a multilingual series of Quick Guides for Policy Makers (United Nations Human Settlements Programme 2011, United Nations Human Settlements Programme and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific 2008) that provide comprehensive yet accessible overviews of region-specific issues and policies as well as practical case studies of programs and best practices to improve housing conditions in Africa and Asia. Kennett and Chan 2011 is an important contribution to the literature, as it underscores the unique and often deleterious experiences of housing processes and systems faced by women across the globe.

  • Kennett, Patricia, and Chan Kam Wah, eds. 2011. Women and housing: An international analysis. New York: Routledge.

    This edited volume examines an understudied dimension in housing research: the gendered nature of housing processes and systems. Contributors from Europe, Asia, and the United States examine how current patterns of economic and social change shape women’s rights to housing, the changing housing needs of women, and enduring patterns of housing inequality and shelter poverty experienced by women.

  • Michelson, William, and Willem Van Vliet. 2000. The sociology of housing. In The international handbook of sociology. Edited by Stella R. Quah and Arnaud Sales, 318–338. London: SAGE.

    Provides historical and sociological perspectives on the contexts shaping housing research. Situates the development of key housing themes within historical contexts. Compares and contrasts the development of housing across capitalist, welfare, and socialist societies. Useful for classroom discussions of housing policies as well as for scholars and practitioners who wish to better understand the rationales behind specific housing policies.

  • United Nations Human Settlements Programme. 1986–. Global report on human settlements. Nairobi, Kenya: United Nations Human Settlements Programme.

    Biennial reports providing current assessment of global urban conditions and trends. Each report provides in-depth treatment of a salient urban issue; volumes have focused on sustainable communities and urban safety. With a compendium of statistics as well as illustrative case studies in each volume, scholars and policy makers will find these to be essential reference works.

  • United Nations Human Settlements Programme. 2011. Housing the poor in African cities. 8 vols. Quick Guides for Policy Makers. Nairobi, Kenya: United Nations Human Settlements Programme.

    UN-HABITAT has published eight quick guides to improve housing for the urban poor in Africa. A major highlight of these guides is the focus on local or region-specific recommendations as well as the use of case studies of best practices. These case studies are particularly useful for scholars and practitioners interested in utilizing culturally and geographically relevant strategies to improve housing conditions in urban Africa.

  • United Nations Human Settlements Programme and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. 2008. Housing the poor in Asian cities. 7 vols. Quick Guides for Policy Makers. Nairobi, Kenya: United Nations Human Settlements Programme.

    Responding to one of the key mandates of UN-HABITAT to improve access to and quality of housing for the urban poor in Asia, each guide is devoted to a primary theme (e.g., urbanization and housing policy), providing readers with an accessible and comprehensive assessment of regional trends and conditions, policies, and local or region-specific recommendations related to the theme.

  • Von Hoffman, Alexander, Eric S. Belsky, and Kwan Lee. 2006. The impact of housing on community: A review of scholarly theories and empirical research. Cambridge, MA: Joint Center for Housing Studies, Graduate School of Design, and John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard Univ.

    A must-read for scholars, policy makers, and students interested in how housing markets and communities influence each other. Provides the most comprehensive review of the impacts of housing markets on residential segregation; neighborhood change and urban decline; uneven quality of public services; uneven access to opportunity structures; and distressed, concentrated poverty neighborhoods. Assesses public policy responses to each of these issues.

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