Journal of Housing and the Built Environment

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 321–338 | Cite as

Housing aspirations and obsolescence: understanding the relationship

  • Keith Kintrea


This paper aims to consider whether there is an incipient problem of housing obsolescence in the UK, and if so, what its main dimensions are. It first examines how obsolescence in housing might be understood, and identifies four relevant factors: the nature of the housing stock; the expectations of households and how they are changing; locational and housing market factors; and the role of housing and urban policy. Using this broad structure, obsolescence and the changing aspirations of households are examined in two ways: first by drawing on an eclectic literature about housing, policy and household behaviour; and second by using evidence from interviews with housing professionals in the north of England. The paper concludes that there are good grounds for thinking that the relationship between what the housing stock offers and aspirations is under increasing strain. There seems to be a significant gap opening up between the qualities provided by new and by older housing, challenging longstanding preferences. There is an important set of relationships between tenure and obsolescence, with home ownership defining what is considered normal throughout the housing system. The findings also challenge the prevalent view that neighbourhood conditions are the key to obsolescence, as there is evidence of suppressed obsolescence and doubt about the strengths of some local markets where demand is apparently high. There is consensus around the desirability of local housing systems offering a choice of sizes and dwelling types, which many older as well as new housing areas do not.


Obsolescence Aspirations Housing Development Housing Renewal 



This research was partly funded by the Northern Housing Consortium, an independent membership-based organisation representing the housing sector in the north of England.

Anna Milner carried out and analysed the results of the interviews in Wakefield.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Urban StudiesUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK

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