Housing experiences and housing outcomes : an application of the housing history methodology to rural Scotland
The problems of differential access to housing in rural Britain are widely recognised. Within rural Scotland rising levels of recorded homelessness and council house waiting lists are testimony to increasingly restricted access to housing. However, a continuing emphasis on the urban context within housing and related social science research has resulted in a lack of understanding of how rural communities, and indeed individuals, negotiate and experience the changing housing system. This thesis explores the issue of access to housing in rural Scotland. While accepting that there have been significant developments in the study of access to housing, these have, primarily, focused on urban housing. Furthermore, given the small size and dispersion of many of Scotland's rural communities, it is suggested that the "traditional" large scale social survey or examination of housing statistics does not provide sufficiently detailed information to allow understanding of access to ho using in the rural context. Rather it is advocated that a qualitative methodology is more appropriate. Access to housing is, therefore, examined from the perspective of the individual household. The primary method of investigation is the reconstruction and analysis of the housing histories of individuals who completed their secondary education in 1975 in three rural districts of Scotland, that is, Argyll and Bute, Skye and Lochalsh and Tweeddale, to allow detailed understanding of the influences on individuals' housing experiences and outcomes. The housing histories are considered in the light of information derived from alternative data sources such as housing plans and interviews with housing practitioners. It is concluded that housing histories reflect complex interactions of temporal and spatial factors including the availability of housing, previous housing experiences, employment and income, and personal desires and perceptions. It is argued, however, that the individual experience of housing cannot be divorced from its wider setting. Individual housing experiences are part of the changing nature of housing at a variety of different levels. Furthermore, it is suggested that housing histories are intrinsically geographic in nature and that the housing history methodology can provide important contributions to both housing studies and rural geography.