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housing class

  A group of people characterized by their occupation of a particular housing type, usually defined by tenure. The term was coined by a British sociologist John Rex (1968, 1971) who identified three access routes to housing: possession of capital and credit, thereby allowing entry to the owner-occupier market; a tenancy in a public (social) housing sector; and a tenancy in a private housing rental sector. He identified seven housing classes:

{img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } outright owners; {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } mortgagees; {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } tenants in purpose-built public housing; {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } tenants in publicly-acquired slum properties awaiting demolition; {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } tenants of whole properties belonging to private owners; {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } house-owners who must sublet parts of their properties in order to afford the repayments; and {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } lodgers who occupy one or more rooms in a dwelling shared with other households.Rex developed the concept and classification to appreciate the position of immigrant groups within the British housing market (Rex and Moore, 1967). He showed that access was not a function of socio-economic status alone, because of the discrimination operated by urban managers and gatekeepers who control access to the various tenures, such as financial institutions which may discriminate in the allocation of mortgages and managers who discriminate in creating and operating the rules for allocating public housing.

The concept was adopted by students of urban residential patterns as providing a better appreciation of how segregation was produced than models based on the free operation of a property market. It has been criticized as no more than an inductive generalization from a particular case, however (which Rex himself accepted: Rex and Tomlinson, 1979), for its assumption of common value systems regarding the desirability of certain types of housing and housing tenure, and for its confusion of consumption sectors within a society with people\'s class position. Nevertheless, its clarification of the role of constraints as well as choices within urban housing markets made a major contribution to the sophistication of analysis and understanding in this aspect of urban geography and housing studies. (RJJ)

References Rex, J. 1968: The sociology of a zone in transition. In R.E. Pahl, ed., Readings in urban sociology. Oxford and New York: Pergamon Press, 211-31. Rex, J. 1971: The concept of housing class and the sociology of race relations. Race 12: 293-301. Rex, J. and Moore, R. 1967: Race, community and conflict. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Rex, J. and Tomlinson, S.A. 1979: Colonial immigrants in a British city. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.



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