Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 March 2021
It is often argued that academics are supposed to do research and write books that present knowledge and analysis in an ‘objective’ and ‘nonpolitical’ format, and remain in the safe and closed spaces of academia, leaving politics and policy making to the politicians, policy makers and media. However, a genuinely ‘objective’ analysis would highlight the incontrovertible evidence of huge harm being done to societies from the current neoliberal policy hegemony in housing. I make the case in this chapter that a mature, open democracy must have space for academics, researchers and policy analysts to play the important role of ‘public intellectuals’, undertaking participatory and critical research, and ‘academic citizens’ to provide a voice in the public sphere that challenges inequalities and presents alternatives, and thus proactively contribute to social change in areas such as housing. Indeed this is necessary to avoid the groupthink and uncritical policy that contributed to the 2008 global financial crisis and subsequent Great Recession.
This chapter begins with outlining aspects of my own housing journey and provides strategies for achieving a fairer and rights-based housing system. This book is not a typical policy or academic work. But then I am not a typical academic author or policy analyst. Driven by the desire to challenge injustice and inequality and bring about real social change and social justice, I have worked with, and for, disadvantaged communities and wider civil society for my entire adult life. I have been an activist and campaigner, a researcher, community worker, policy analyst, author, lecturer, media commentator, and, more recently a podcaster. Some of this work has taken the form of paid jobs, but much of it has been voluntary. I hope this book will inspire community workers, activists, academics, policy analysts and researchers who seek to achieve empowerment, participation and social justice in their work.
A personal housing journey
We all need a home. We all have a housing journey. We have memories of our childhood and of growing up in our home. And as adults, we face a challenge of finding our own home. Then if have you children, the need for a long-term, secure, home in a safe neighbourhood becomes paramount in your priorities.