Rebuild housing research

June 4, 2009

A great deal is wrong with university research in the UK on housing ("Housing policies 'impose' a middle-class makeover", 28 May).

Your report centres on controversy between researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Salford. But a fundamental reason why housing research fails to deliver the benefits it should can be identified from the findings, many years ago, of other Manchester-based investigators of housing and social conditions. Marx and Engels identified the "fetish" use of housing as a symbol of wealth rather than a useful product.

Now that the investment "bubble" has collapsed, housing research programmes need to be rethought. Requirements for improved knowledge include identification of stable financing mechanisms, housing design more conducive to social and psychological wellbeing, and better building techniques, particularly in relation to environmental sustainability. Such different strands of research need to be seen as complementary, not as reflecting the interests and ideological standpoints of conflicting research groups and connections. Not least, better means are needed of putting research findings on housing matters into effective use.

Frederic Stansfield, Canterbury.

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