Reified scarcity & the problem space of ‘need’: unpacking Australian social housing policy

Taylor & Francis
Publication Type:
Journal Article
2022, pp. 1-15
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
Social housing is today a highly residualised sector due to a combination of declining public investment and intensified targeting of stock to the neediest households. We argue that residualisation has opened up a distinct ‘problem space’ wherein policy making and debate are organised around a distinct set of questions and imperatives. Drawing on research into the management of social housing waitlists in Australia, we show how this problem space is characterised by a preoccupation with finding ever more fine-grained ways of targeting social housing to the neediest households in the context of growing scarcity of housing stock. Defining and operationalising ‘neediness’ becomes the focal point for policy making and struggles thereover, overshadowing questions of supply and broader debates about the role of social housing in addressing the housing crisis. The problem space of neediness is thus characterised by a tendency to reify social housing scarcity, transforming it into a natural and inevitable constraint that policy makers must simply manage.
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