Owner occupier search behaviour in the Belfast Urban Area : an investigation of residential search in a segregated housing market
Racial and ethnic residential segregation are persistent features of urban areas throughout the world. This study focuses on the search behaviour of owner occupier households in the Belfast Urban Area, an area segregated on the basis of religion. The study was initiated under the premise that household search behaviour was important in the context of a spatially segregated housing market, and is a research area that has been neglected at least as far as Belfast is concerned. The overall aim of the research is to develop a better understanding of how owner occupied households made their housing choices against such a segregated background. For many years, the literature has recognised the two-way relationship between mobility and urban form and, at the same time, it has acknowledged that residential decision making is inherently conservative in nature. The US evidence on racial search and mobility behaviour indicates that such behaviour is supportive of the existing patterns of separate living. This observation set up the basic proposition for this study; namely, Catholic searchers in the BUA will exhibit search behaviour similar to that of black households in comparably segregated urban areas in the United States. The literature on racial differences in search suggests that black household search is less efficient and more costly than that of whites. In particular, blacks are seen to search for longer than whites, during which time they view a similar number or fewer dwellings, but over a more restricted range of areas. In terms of information use, the evidence is that black households make extensive use of existing information channels. In particular, informal sources such as friends and relatives, which serve to reinforce the localised nature of search, and estate agents are important sources of information for minority searchers. The evidence is also clear that black households tend to end up in black areas.