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Housing Dissertation Topics

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Example housing dissertation topic 1:

An assessment of the housing legacy of Aneurin Bevan, Minister of Housing 1945-1951.

Aneurin 'Nye' Bevan was once described by his Labour party successor, Hugh Dalton, as 'a tremendous Tory' for his adherence to building standards in the council house building programme that he oversaw in the immediate post-war period. This dissertation evaluates the achievements of Bevan in their historical context. Further, it compares the quality and quantity of houses built under his tenure of office to those constructed by Dalton and, thereafter, Macmillan. This is a dissertation that could be focused onto a specific geographic area and is one that should use an array of primary departmental sources as well as secondary accounts of the post-war boom in council housing within England, Wales and Scotland.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Cole, I. and Goodchild, B. (2000). 'Social mix and the balanced community in British housing policy - A tale of two epochs'. GeoJournal, vol. 51(4), pp. 351-360.
  • Houghton, J. (2008). 'The ideological importance of housing'. Renewal, vol. 16(3), pp. 31-39.
  • Malpass, P. (2003). 'The wobbly pillar? Housing and the British post war welfare state'. Journal of Social Policy, vol. 32(4), pp. 589-606.

Example housing dissertation topic 2:

A social history of housing conditions in the 'hutments' of Britain after the Second World War.

Faced with an acute housing shortage as a consequence of war-time damage, an almost total stoppage in construction during the war, and the demographic realities of returning service men, earlier ages of marriage and a resultant baby boom, this dissertation looks at an aspect of social housing within England that is often overlooked. In the years between 1945 and 1951 (later in some parts of the country), former slum dwellers and returning servicemen and their families were relocated into prefabricated Nissen huts situated in the plethora of temporary army bases that had been constructed during the war. Services were, contemporary accounts suggest, below basic, with few amenities, even less privacy and an almost total lack of services. Using both primary and secondary sources this dissertation provides an insight into the planning decisions that led to the conversion of army huts - or 'hutments' as some local authorities coined - into accommodation for periods of up to six years as well as providing a social commentary of the nature of living within them.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Ministry of Health (1945). Temporary housing programme. Cmd. 6686. London: HMSO.
  • Vale, B. (1995). Prefabs: The history of the UK temporary housing programme. London: Routledge.
  • Women's Group on Public Welfare (1951). 'The effect of the design of the temporary prefabricated bungalow on household routine'. Sociological Review, vol. 43, pp. 17-48

Example housing dissertation topic 3:

Perceptions of high-rises: A planner's dream, a resident's nightmare?

With broad party political support, the ideal of high-rise living came to dominate issues relating to the housing of urban overspill in the 1950s and 1960s. Seen as a way in which to check urban sprawl, remove citizens from the dangers of the street, and enable them to benefit from the privacy that hitherto only the wealthy had enjoyed, politicians from Tony Benn to Keith Joseph championed the cause of high-rise developments. In contrast, many who were destined to be rehoused into such accommodation fought against their construction - suggesting that such developments lacked both essential services and community identity. Charting the rise (and subsequent demolition) of a significant proportion of socially constructed high-rise tower blocks this dissertation could be extended to also comment on the reconditioning of tower-blocks by housing associations in the last few years.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Cooney, E.W. (1974). 'High flats in local authority housing in England and Wales since 1945'. In, Sutcliffe, A. (ed.), Multi-storey living: The British working-class experience. London: Croom-Helm.
  • Gosling, R. (1963). Sum total. London: Faber.
  • Kearns, A., Whitley, E., Mason, P. and Bond, L. (2012). ''Living the high life'? Residential, social and psychosocial outcomes for high-rise occupants in a deprived context'. Housing Studies, vol. 27(1), pp. 97-126.

Example housing dissertation topic 4:

An evaluation of the success of Trusteel and 'no fines' houses.

Hailed as solutions to the housing crisis of the late 1940s, 'no-fines' and Trusteel houses have, in more recent years, presented owners with a number of problems, not least of which have been rusting steel, insufficient insulation, crumbling cement, and an inability - as a consequence of such issues - to secure mortgages upon them. Despite these problems, they remain home, especially upon social housing estates, to a significant proportion of the population and their internal spaciousness is in excess of the council houses built thereafter. Moreover, it is possible for the defects in their structure to be remedied. Accordingly, this dissertation interviews architects, planners and residents so as to arise at a reasoned conclusion regarding whether these houses are still, as they were in the 1940s, 'fit for purpose', or whether they should now be demolished in their entirety and replaced with new builds.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bothwell, K., Saich, M. and Mallion, P. (2011). Retrofit of existing housing in the United Kingdom: The carbon reduction possibilities. Conference Proceedings of the 27th International Conference on Passive and Low Energy Architecture, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 13-15 July 2011.
  • Harrison, H., Mullin, S., Reeves, B. and Stevens, A. (2005). 'Identification and assessment of non-traditional UK housing'. Structural Survey, vol. 23(3), pp. 172-179.
  • Sommerville, J., Craig, N. and Charles, A. (2011). 'No-fines concrete in the UK social housing stock: 50 years on'. Structural Survey, vol. 29(4), pp. 294-302.

Example housing dissertation topic 5:

The bungalow: A suburban love affair?

Nowhere else in Europe has the bungalow been so embraced as it has been within England. Noting first its widespread erection in the inter-war years, this dissertation charts the changing fortunes of the bungalow within the housing market of England. Suggesting that its enduring popularity is as a consequence of both its versatility and the tendency for them to be built upon sites with above-average sized gardens, this dissertation further questions the extent to which they are most suited largely to elderly residents. Using street-based interviews within Kent, this dissertation compiles the views of newly married couples in Dartford as to the positives of living in a bungalow and makes a strong case for their inclusion in more building developments.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Lewis, A., Torrington, J., Barnes, S., Darton, R., Holder, J., McKee, K., Netten, A. and Orrell, A. (2010). 'EVOLVE: A tool for evaluating the design of older people's housing'. Housing, Care and Support, vol. 13(3), pp. 36-41.
  • Parry, M. and Baker, S. (1984). 'Purpose-built retirement housing for sale'. Journal of Consumer Studies & Home Economics, vol. 8(3), pp. 229-241.
  • Yohanis, Y.G., Mondol, J.D., Wright, A. and Norton, B. (2008). 'Real-life energy use in the UK: How occupancy and dwelling characteristics affect domestic electricity use'. Energy and Buildings, vol. 40(6), pp. 1053-1059.

Example housing dissertation topic 6:

'The right to buy' - A history.

It is often forgotten that council tenants' right to buy their home significantly pre-dated the Conservative administration of Margaret Thatcher. In fact, the right to buy was enshrined within legislation in the late 1940s though seldom promoted by Labour-controlled councils. For instance, it was only with the return of a Conservative council in Derby in 1968 (an authority that had been Labour since 1926), that the right to buy was actively promoted. Focusing on the two authorities of Derby and Portsmouth, this dissertation charts the political motivation of the councils, and the levels of 'right to buy' uptake in the two cities from 1940 to the present day. In so doing, it expands existing knowledge of the Thatcher years and makes an original contribution to understanding to this aspect of housing policy.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Cook, J.A. (1985) Policy implementation in housing: A study of the experience of Portsmouth and Derby, 1945-74. Doctoral thesis, University of Nottingham.
  • Goodlad, R. and Atkinson, R. (2004). 'Sacred cows, rational debates and the politics of the right to buy after devolution'. Housing Studies, vol. 19(3), pp. 447-463.
  • Tunstall, R. (2003). ''Mixed tenure' policy in the UK: Privatisation, pluralism or euphemism?' Housing, Theory and Society, vol. 20(3), pp. 153-159.

Example housing dissertation topic 7:

The Garden City: A housing movement revisited.

Rapidly approaching its 90th anniversary the Garden City movement revolutionised the design of housing and communities within the United Kingdom. Indeed, with its wider frontages, open spaces and non-car areas, the movement pioneered a number of features that have remained as staple ingredients of housing developments to the present day. Through reviewing archival primary sources and undertaking contemporary primary interviews, this dissertation seeks to evaluate the on-going relevance of the housing and building ideals enshrined within the movement and through so doing, proposes its wider usage in the housing developments of the 21st century.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Buder, S. (1990). Visionaries and planners: The Garden City movement and the modern community. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Meacham, S. (1999). Regaining paradise: Englishness and the early Garden City movement. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Reade, C.C. (1913). 'A defence of the Garden City movement'. Town Planning Review, vol. 4(3), pp. 245.

Example housing dissertation topic 8:

A critique of the housing reforms of John Prescott with especial reference to building homes upon flood-plains in Norfolk and the Thames Gateway.

A little over a decade has passed since the housing reforms ushered in by John Prescott enabled more homes to be built upon flood-plains within the south of England. In the meantime, the country has witnessed some of its wettest years on record with insurance claims following flooding reaching an all-time high. Concentrating on Norfolk and Lincolnshire this dissertation evaluates the successes and failures of Prescott's housing policy and queries whether the time has now come to prohibit all further development upon floodplains. A dissertation that would ideally suit someone who has an interest in furthering a career that combines both housing and town planning. This study would also benefit from the undertaking of primary interviews with builders, planners, and residents.

  • Allmendinger, P. and Tewdwr-Jones, M. (2000). 'New Labour, new planning? The trajectory of planning in Blair's Britain'. Urban Studies, vol. 38(8), pp. 1379-1402.
  • Nicolaou, L. and Chaplin, S. (2010). 'The Thames Gateway'. In, Punter, J. (ed.), Urban design and the British urban renaissance. London: Routledge, pp. 224-241.
  • Raco, M. and Henderson, S. (2006). 'Sustainable urban planning and the brownfield development process in the United Kingdom: Lessons from the Thames Gateway'. Local Environment, vol. 11(5), pp. 499-513.

Example housing dissertation topic 9:

A critique of changing local government policies with regard to the renovation of houses and second homes.

Against the backdrop of budget cuts and austerity measures a number of councils have noted that the present rebates given for houses that are being renovated or are empty are to be scrapped. This dissertation analyses the potential effects of this policy on householders within the UK. Focusing on 'to let' houses that may stand empty between tenants and renovation work to listed properties (that are hitherto uninhabitable) this dissertation questions whether the changes in council tax rebate will, as councils have presumed, result in an increase in affordable houses becoming available on the market or whether, the result will be higher social rents to tenants (once such properties are let) and a declining number of people willing to salvage Grade II listed buildings for the nation. Combining housing policy, public administration and issues of heritage, this is a dissertation topic that is 'of the moment' and accordingly provides ample scope for primary research to be undertaken.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Hennessy, P. (2011). 'Council tax blow for second-home owners'. The Daily Telegraph, 29th October 2011.
  • Mansfield, J. (2009). Sustainable refurbishment: policy direction and support in the UK. Structural Survey, 27(2), 148-161.
  • Office of the Prime Minister (2011). Laying the foundations: A housing strategy for England. London: HMSO.

Example housing dissertation topic 10:

The 'Green Deal' and housing - A missed opportunity?

Instigated by the now disgraced former Cabinet Minister Chris Huhne, the 'Green Deal' was launched by the Coalition Government in an attempt to make it easier for home owners to install (and benefit) from green power. Against a backdrop in which the construction industry needs to further embrace the 'green agenda', this dissertation argues that the 'Green Deal' was a missed opportunity by government. Instead, this study investigates the public's perceptions of government making it mandatory for all new houses built to be equipped with solar power and making it a condition of purchase of houses over 500,000 that solar powers be installed. It argues that both measures would lower the cost of units and result in a 'trickle down' effect within the sector. This is an idealist dissertation that deliberate embraces issues pertaining to housing, the environment and politics.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Arie, S. (2012). Understanding the risks of the Green Deal. Draft working paper, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford.
  • Falk, N. and Carley, M. (2012). How can local government build sustainable urban neighbourhoods? York: Sustainable Urban Neighbourhoods Network, Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
  • Hinnells, M. and O'Neil, I. (2012). 'New business models for a low-carbon future: Case studies from the energy sector'. Contemporary Issues in Entrepreneurship Research, vol. 2, pp. 49-73.

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