This one-day themed seminar on Homelessness and the Private Rented Sector (PRS) was supported by the Housing Studies Association in partnership with the Centre for Housing Research at the University of St Andrews. The event was chaired by Professor Joe Doherty, founder and director of the St Andrews Centre for Housing Research and who was, from 1998 to 2008, a Co-ordinator of the European Observatory on Homelessness – the research arm of FEANTSA (European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless).
The sessions were paired thematically. The first was delivered by Dr Ross Morris (university of Glasgow) who presented the findings of his research on ‘Homeless People’s Experience of the PRS’. This extremely topical research showed that there was something of a ‘trade-off’ between the benefits of having a secure tenancy and the flexibility of the PRS. Second, Dr Steve Rolfe presented on the University of Stirling’s current project which examines innovative social enterprise solutions to providing accommodation for homeless households. The project is still in its early phase, so Dr Rolfe highlighted some of the important issues surrounding social enterprise as well as looking at its potential to offer accommodation solutions in contemporary housing systems.
The second session focused on housing law, with Fiona McPhail, a practicing lawyer at Shelter’s Scottish Housing Law Service and Jed Meers from York University’s Law School talking about the impact of recent case law on homelessness with a particular focus on the PRS. Jed examined the issue of intentionality and the chain of causation and Fiona looked at advice and assistance for those leaving the PRS.
After lunch it was the turn of Dr Sharon Leahy and Dr Nissa Finney from the Geography Department of the University of St Andrews to talk about the controversial Right to Rent part of the Immigration Act 2016 and general issues of discrimination in the PRS. Sharon’s paper covered a number of theoretical positions problematising and raising doubts about the validity of the notion that immigration is an ‘actually existing’ problem. Dr Leahy stressed the need to reflect on concepts such as the ‘right to rent’, the ‘right to work’ and the ‘right to welfare’, arguing that these are ‘fantasy concepts’ with no grounding in reality. This notion of ‘fantasy’ was also extended to cover the idea of citizenship, a concept central to the constitution of ‘precarity’.
In the last session Professor Douglas Robertson talked about his involvement in PRS reform. Covering a period of almost ten years, Professor Robertson detailed his involvement in chairing the reform group with insights into the policy making process, exploring both the ‘occasional opportunism’ and the ‘steady incrementalism’ of reform.
Dr Joe Crawford, who organised the event, would like to thank the chair, Professor Joe Doherty and the speakers, for their inspiring contributions and all those who attended the event.
This blog summarises the ‘Homelessness and the Private Rented Sector’ event that took place at Parliament Hall, St Andrews on the 17th November 2016.