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Housing Policy and 'Special Needs'

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The concept of 'special needs' is one with which all housing practitioners and housing policy analysts will be familiar. It is a concept which is increasingly the touchstone for state involvement in housing and it is a label which can unlock the door to resources for many groups of people such as 'the elderly', 'the mentally handicapped' and 'the physically disabled'.

The objectives of this paper are to examine the 'special needs' concept by analysing its role in the targetting of housing policy. The impact of the 'special needs' approach is assessed both in terms of its capacity to deliver the goods for 'special' groups and in terms of the implications of the approach for the impact of state intervention in the provision of housing and welfare. The argument throughout is that the 'special needs' approach has brought some substantial material gains to the groups it serves but that these achievements have been secured at the cost of inflexibility in service provision, the relative exclusion of 'special' groups from mainstream society and the increasing stigmatisation of such groups due to the stereotypical images their 'special' designation conveys.

Finally, two strategies of reform are considered: the incremental approach which aims to widen and expand the range of groups eligible for special provision; and a radical, strategy which challenges some key tenets of the 'special needs' approach and provides a more 'universalising' alternative.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 July 1990

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UA-1313315-21
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