Housing Activism Against the Production of Ignorance: Some Lessons from the UK

  • Tom SlaterEmail author
Part of the The Contemporary City book series (TCONTCI)


This chapter traces the historical development of housing inequality in the UK and explores in particular the organising work of the Living Rent campaign in Scotland, which has achieved significant policy changes in Scotland in a very short space of time, largely due to a canny mix of direct action, dialogue with key politicians and alternative knowledge production against the production and circulation of ignorance in respect of housing affordability and rent control. It argues that, notwithstanding remarkable progress, tenant movements such as Living Rent still have to confront the ignorance that is intentionally produced by the powerful institutions holding the fort of vested interests vis-a-vis the urban question, particularly free market think tanks. Correspondingly, the analysis in this chapter is situated within the register of agnotology, a body of work that has emerged to expose and critique the intentional production of ignorance. The chapter demonstrates that the future achievements of movements for housing justice in the UK depend on their ability to organise and agitate for major policy changes in a demanding context of think tanks both producing ignorance about the causes of the housing crisis and recommending policies that will simply intensify it.


Housing Rent control Agnotology Think tanks Activism Scotland 


  1. Anas, A. (1997). Rent Control with Matching Economies: A Model of European Housing Market Regulation. Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, 15(1), 111–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baldwin, J. (1972). No Name in the Street. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  3. Ball, P. (2014, November 19). Gentrification Is a Natural Evolution. The Guardian.
  4. Bone, J., & O’Reilly, K. (2010). No Place Called Home: The Causes and Social Consequences of the UK Housing “Bubble”. British Journal of Sociology, 61(2), 231–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bourne, R. (2014). The Flaws in Rent Ceilings (IEA Discussion Paper No. 55). London: Institute of Economic Affairs.
  6. Buchanan, M., & Woodcock, S. (2016). Councils Spent £3.5bn on Temporary Housing in Last Five Years. BBC News.
  7. Carlyon, T. (2013). Food for Thought: Applying House Price Inflation to Grocery Prices. Shelter Research Report.
  8. Collinson, P. (2017, December 8). Four in 10 Right-to-Buy Homes Are Now Owned by Private Landlords. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  9. Engels, F. (1845). The Condition of the Working Class in England. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  10. Gauldie, E. (1976). The Middle Class and the Working-Class Housing in the Nineteen Century. In A. MacLaren (Ed.), Social Class in Scotland: Past and Present (pp. 12–35). Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers Ltd.Google Scholar
  11. Gurran, N., & Phibbs, P. (2015). Are Governments Really Interested in Fixing the Housing Problem? Policy Capture and Busy Work in Australia. Housing Studies, 30(5), 711–729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hamnett, C. (2010). Moving the Poor Out of Central London? The Implications of the Coalition Government 2010 Cuts to Housing Benefits. Environment and Planning A, 42(12), 2809–2819.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hodkinson, S. (2012). The New Urban Enclosures. CITY, 16(5), 500–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kutty, N. (1996). The Impact of Rent Control on Housing Maintenance: A Dynamic Analysis Incorporating European and North American Rent Regulations. Housing Studies, 11(1), 69–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lansley, S., & Mack, J. (2015). Breadline Britain: The Rise of Mass Poverty. London: One World.Google Scholar
  16. Leitner, H., Peck, J., & Sheppard, E. (2007). Contesting Neoliberalism: Urban Frontiers. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  17. Madden, D., & Marcuse, P. (2016). In Defense of Housing. London: Verso Books.Google Scholar
  18. Maloney, G. (2015). A Living Rent for Scotland’s Private Tenants.
  19. McCrone, D., & Elliot, B. (1989). Property and Power in a City: The Sociological Significance of Landlordism. Basingstoke: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. McKee, K. (2016). Social Housing and the ‘New Localism’: A Strategy of Governance for Austere Times. In M. Bevir (Ed.), Governmentality After Neoliberalism. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Meek, J. (2014). Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else. London: Verso Books.Google Scholar
  22. Minton, A. (2017). Big Capital: Who Is London for? London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  23. Mirowski, P. (2013). Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Economic Meltdown. London: Verso Books.Google Scholar
  24. Olsen, E. O. (1988). What Do Economists Know About the Effect of Rent Control on Housing Maintenance. Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, 1(3), 295–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Proctor, R., & Schiebinger, L. (Eds.). (2008). Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Rodger, R. (1989). Crisis and Confrontation in Scottish Housing 1880–1914. In R. Rodger (Ed.), Scottish Housing in the Twentieth Century (pp. 25–53). Leicester: Leicester University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Rolnik, R. (2013). Late Neoliberalism: The Financialization of Homeownership and Housing Rights. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 37(3), 1058–1066.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Savills. (2017). London’s Future Homes and Workplaces – The Next Five Years. London: Savills World Research.Google Scholar
  29. Sayer, A. (2014). Why We Can’t Afford the Rich. Bristol: Policy Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Shelter. (2014). Safe and Decent Homes: Solutions for a Better Private Rented Sector. Accessed 6 June 2017.
  31. Slater, T. (2014). The Myth of “Broken Britain”: Welfare Reform and the Production of Ignorance. Antipode, 46(4), 948–969.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Slater, T. (2016). The Housing Crisis in Neoliberal Britain: Free Market Think Tanks and the Production of Ignorance. In S. Springer, K. Birch, & J. MacLeavy (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Neoliberalism. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Stafford, D. C. (1976). The Final Economic Demise of the Private Landlord? Social and Economic Administration, 10(1), 3–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. UK Parliament. (2016). Housing and Planning Bill: Written Evidence Submitted by Crisis Accessed 6 June 2017.
  35. Watt, P., & Minton, A. (2016). London’s Housing Crisis and Its Activisms. CITY, 20(2), 204–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of EdinburghEdinburghUK

Personalised recommendations