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Housing and Family Dynamics

Proposed in 2014, established in 2016


Rory Coulter (main contact)
UCL Department of Geography
University College London
London, UK
Tomáš Samec
Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences
Prague, Czech Republic
Michael Thomas
Faculty of Spatical Sciences
University of Groningen
Groningen, The Netherlands

Overview and themes
The Housing and Family Dynamics Working Group (WG) was established in 2014 to provide a forum for the dissemination and discussion of research examining how families interact with housing systems. Both WG coordinators are currently working on externally funded research projects concerned with this theme (for full details please see our project websites:
http://ftht.sociology.cam.ac.uk/ and https://partnerlifeproject.org/. As work on housing and family dynamics is very diverse and is often spread thinly across fields and disciplines, an important goal of the WG is to provide a collegial network which brings together researchers with varied expertise to exchange ideas, findings and insights about the links between families and housing. Examples of research conducted by members of the WG includes, but is certainly not confined to, the following areas:

  • Quantitative research examining how demographic events such as leaving the parental home, childbirth or changes in partnerships are linked to housing transitions in different countries.
  • Studies of family relations and housing pathways - including work exploring intergenerational social mobility within housing systems, practices of family support in housing markets, and the socialisation of housing aspirations/preferences.
  • Analyses of the ways in which family life is affected by housing conditions, design and systems of housing welfare and support.
  • Theoretical and applied research drawing on constructionist perspectives, discourse analysis and/or innovative participatory research methods to understand family practices and relational interactions within housing systems.
The WG functions primarily as a network and has a mailing list with roughly 35 members. We hope to increase the WG’s reach and influence in 2017 and in order to do this we will shortly be testing some new initiatives (see next section for details).

Future plans
In 2017 we will be organising a strand of workshop sessions at the ENHR annual conference in Tirana. We aim to trial two new developments at this conference:

  1. We hope to hold a themed joint session with the Migration, Residential Mobility and Neighbourhood Change Working Group (this is currently TBC and dependent on coordinator availability). Hosting joint workshop sessions is an excellent way to build links between Working Groups covering similar ground. We welcome invitations to collaborate at the annual conference with other convenors in 2017 or at subsequent ENHR conferences (please contact us by email).
  2. Instead of a conventional workshop consisting of oral presentations followed by question and answers, in Tirana we will be trialling a new 'interactive presentation and discussion' session format. Abstracts submitted to the WG for presentation at the 2017 Tirana conference will first be evaluated by the coordinators and if approved will be assigned to one of several themed sessions. We are not specifying the themes in advance as we welcome papers on any family related topics and we want to keep the workshop responsive to changing research priorities.

Within the interactive presentation and discussion sessions, each author will first be given roughly five minutes to briefly summarise the key points of their written paper. An assigned discussant will then take over and give about five to ten minutes of commentary on the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the study, as well as its potential implications for policy and practice. The floor will then be opened for general discussion of the paper and its connections to other work presented to the WG. Papers will be circulated in advance of the conference to all presenters and members of the WG mailing list (please email the coordinators if you wish to be added to the mailing list). We hope that this new format will provide a better opportunity to intensively discuss submitted research in a supportive environment. We also want to build a distinctive identity for the new WG and minimise the number of accepted authors who drop out of workshop sessions without notifying the coordinators in advance. This was a particular problem in Belfast and meant that some workshop sessions lacked participants, which is unfair on the presenters who do turn up.

The WG coordinators will also be involved with the organisation of an international workshop on family and housing transitions to be held in St Andrews in May 2017. This event will be advertised to WG members and we hope for a good turnout of academics as well as national and international policymakers and stakeholders. The PartnerLife team (partnerlifeproject.org) are also hosting an international conference on partnerships and housing in Cologne in July 2017 to which we will be inviting WG participants. We are currently working with Tomáš Samec to explore the possibility of hosting a workshop on families and housing in Prague in 2018.

Past activities
The inaugural meeting of the WG was held at the 2015 ENHR conference in Lisbon where 15 high quality papers were presented across 6 themed workshop sessions. We built on this success in Belfast in 2016 where a slightly smaller number of participants presented papers on a range of topics. These included family transitions and changes in neighbourhood environments, intergenerational transmissions of homeownership in various countries, the impact of divorce on housing careers, and the housing and family challenges facing ‘millennials’. The WG coordinators are also currently involved in a collaborative externally funded analysis of union dissolution and housing careers in Great Britain.

Policy implications
An important goal of the WG is to bring policy more deeply into research on housing and families. Papers discussing family and housing policy developments are always welcome at workshop sessions. Past examples of policy relevant work undertaken by group members include:

  • Work on how men and women’s housing careers are affected differently by separation.
  • Studies of the transmission of inequality between generations through EU housing systems (for example through family assistance to enter homeownership in young adulthood).
  • The ways in which family relations and family formation are influenced by housing and welfare systems.