The purpose of this project is to examine housing practices in order to understand how families use housing to meet welfare needs. The premise of the study is that in the context of retrenching welfare states where increasing responsibilities for welfare provision fall on households and families, housing becomes an integral part of strategies for accessing formal and informal welfare provision.
For example, buying or renting housing in close proximity to parents or other family members can be a means of accessing informal childcare; relying on the equity built up in the parental house to guaranty one’s mortgage can be a means of accessing better quality housing through homeownership; using land property acquired by parents or grandparents and rebuilding an old house into a new two-household house can be a means for younger generations to achieve quality independent living and older generations to ensure the support of their descendants in old age. What these examples point to are the complex arrangements that housing, as a physical object with economic, social, and locational attributes, is a part of in daily and long term “planning”. It is these arrangements that we need to understand if we are to consider housing as a base of welfare, and it is the purpose of this study to shed light on the ways in which households and families negotiate structural constraints and opportunities inherent in the organization of the welfare system, the structure of the housing market and in the shear physical nature of housing stocks in order to achieve their welfare goals. The study is a comparative one, based on ethnographic fieldwork in the following six countries: England, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands and Romania.