HSA Chair and Professor of Housing & Communities at the University of Huddersfield, Phil Brown, launches our new blog series which celebrates 30 years since the establishment of the HSA. Over the remainder of this year we will publish our '30 for 30' blog series that will reflect on the past, present and future of housing.


In starting with the title for this blog I got wondering (procrastinating) as to why we celebrate round numbers so much (take a seat 18 and 21 you’ve had your time). Apparently there are a number of theories about why we find comfort in round numbers such as the dominance of the decimal system and the way we have learned, early on, to count in tens. Others have suggested that it’s because most of us have ten digits on our hands and this skeletal fact has evolved our understanding and organisation of number. Whilst others have suggested that counting things in tens and rounding up helps to bring simplicity to the complex. Anyway, who knows, who cares (probably our colleagues over at the Royal Statistical Society)? The HSA is 30 years old this year and we’re celebrating not because it’s a round number, or merely because we’re still a-round; but because we’re thriving and we all know we need a celebration!

Let’s face it, last year was a car crash. Or, aiming at housing related imagery, it’s been like that scene in the 1986 film The Money Pit where Tom Hanks and Shelley Long look at the house they’ve renovated, costing them money, sleep and a fair share of emotional energy, and it falls down in front of their eyes. However, the challenges for housing, and housing studies, have been going on for far longer than 2020. Over the last decade housing studies courses have been in precarious positions, many courses have closed, the housing sector more broadly has suffered a lack of focus, commitment and has often been sidelined in policy.

In spite of all of that I think we’re witnessing, and the HSA is an active part of, a resurgence of interest in housing as a basis from which to understand our interconnected and evolving society. We’re now all thinking about our homes differently, more people are aware of how critical having access to a safe and secure home is for our wellbeing and health. Whilst this interest is all around us I genuinely think the HSA is playing a key role in building on this resurgence and interpreting the world through data, theory and commentary. Over the last few years we have increasingly been bringing colleagues together to promote the importance of housing studies, we have been supporting the next generation of housing scholars and practitioners and we’ve been actively championing our members’ research and scholarship.

However, this is not new. Our current position stands on the shoulders of many committed colleagues who have gone before who have laid and built the foundations for the HSA. For those who were not aware the HSA was created from, what was known as, the Housing Study Group which was established in 1984 and funded jointly by the ESRC and, what became, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. At the conclusion of this funding was the creation of the HSA, ably led by Peter Williams as the inaugural Chair of the Association, the establishment of a self-financed, membership based entity  which set forth to engage a wide audience and develop conferences. Elections for a Committee to guide the HSA were held at the end of 1991.

This has been our model for the last 30 years and the consistency of our purpose is quite remarkable. We remain a membership organisation and we deliver a major conference and several events each year, but we are much more. Whilst we remain a modestly sized organisation we are widely seen as one of the most supportive associations. Thanks to the work of committee members, conference organisers, event attendees and our membership the Association has become established as the leading independent forum for the promotion of housing studies, embracing the interests of researchers and students across a broad range of organisations and academic disciplines. We provide people with their own disciplinary home and identity, we continue to support early-career colleagues in everything we do, and we cultivate encounters which allow our members to work across subject areas and geographic borders.

So, this year we’re celebrating. We have our showpiece annual conference (online) on the 14th – 15th April, we will have an Autumn Lecture, we are inviting scholars and practitioners from across our membership to contribute to produce 30 blogs over the year, we’re providing unprecedented financial support to ECRs to attend our conference at no cost, and we’re planning more ways to mark this milestone which will be announced over the year. I’d urge everyone to get involved, talk about your work and shape the future of housing studies for the next three decades. Keep your eyes on our website and channels, there is so much more yet to come.

 If you would like to contribute to this series, please email the Communications Officer.


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