Housing-related policies and programs can play an important role in promoting social inclusion by addressing homelessness, concentrations of disadvantage, and housing stress.
This project focused on housing in affecting social inclusion/exclusion. It reinforced the notion that exclusion is much more than simply loss of housing through homelessness. People can be socially excluded through having their options limited to poor quality and insecure accommodation in unsafe neighbourhoods, with few job prospects and inadequate services. Two particular types of social exclusion (using a categorization developed in the UK) were found to be relevant to this study: deep social exclusion (for people who experience multiple or cumulative disadvantage, such as many who are homeless); and concentrated exclusion (where disadvantages might be found in particular groups or locations).
In the case of deep social exclusion, the evidence suggests the most effective programs are those that have a dual focus on individuals, but also on the wider systemic processes that maintain inequality. Effective interventions involve provision of secure (especially long term) housing accompanied by support services—so that the support follows the person. Responses also need to be tailored to the individual since no one type of intervention will suit all.
In the case of concentrated exclusion, area based approaches (such as Neighbourhood Renewal Strategies) were found to be effective in improving place outcomes (in relation to crime and safety, housing and the physical environment and community outcomes) but the impacts on individuals (e.g. in health, education or worklessness) is unclear. Any effective ‘narrowing of the gap’ requires sustained investment in locations that are disadvantaged. Policies which aim to diversify housing tenure might bring benefits for those living in the neighbourhood, but not necessarily for those who are required to relocate. In some cases addressing deep social exclusion may be at odds with addressing concentrated exclusion.
The concepts of social inclusion need to be incorporated in policy evaluation frameworks for it to be of consequence to policy-makers. Evaluators need to consider the objectives of the intervention, collect baseline data, and analyse how interventions lead to changed outcomes.