Valerie was a housing researcher of compassion and conviction. She believed in the power of research to challenge and change policy by exposing the injustices of life in urban society. She was also a passionate advocate of community engagement and action.

She took her doctorate at the University of Birmingham on housing for older people. After working as a research fellow at York University she returned to Birmingham, where she lectured until 1984. She then spent a decade as Professor of Environmental Health and Housing at Salford University, before taking up the position of Professor of Housing Studies at the Manchester University in 1994.

Valerie’s interests were wide-ranging and her achievements many. One her most notable contributions was her joint authorship of Race, Class and State Housing (1987). Written with Jeff Henderson, this seminal work exposed the processes of institutional racism in public housing. Reviewing the book for Critical Social Policy in 1988, Norman Ginsberg recognised the work as “more comprehensive, sophisticated and perhaps radical in its implications than anything done before.”

The latest winner of the Valerie Karn Early Career Researcher Prize is:

Rhiannon Williams (University of Sheffield), Exploring spatial variation in Universal Credit’s effects on housing insecurity

Previous winners of the prize include*:

*Several of these papers were subsequently developed and published in peer-reviewed journals or books, you can click on the links to read these. The titles presented above are the VK paper titles, in some cases the published titles differ.

The Prize

The prize is financed through donations made in Valerie Karn’s memory from her daughter and other family and friends. The prize winner will be awarded a £100 Waterstone’s gift voucher and will receive support towards the professional production and dissemination of the winning paper.

All papers submitted by an early career researcher will be considered for the prize, but particular preference will be given to papers sharing Valerie’s broad interests which include:

  • Race and housing
  • Housing standards and conditions
  • Homelessness
  • Housing management and governance
  • Comparative housing research

The Prize is awarded each year at the HSA annual conference.


All applicants for the Valerie Karn Prize must be a HSA member. Non-members who submit will be contacted with an opportunity to sign-up for membership, otherwise their applications will not be considered. Details on how to become a member can be found here.

Applicants must also have a paper accepted for the conference and be planning to attend. The paper can be presented online or in-person.  

The Housing Studies Association adopts a flexible view of what constitutes an Early Career Researcher (ECR). ECRs normally include all Masters students, Doctoral students, and researchers with less than four years full-time equivalent research experience (e.g. postdoctoral researchers within 4 years of PhD completion or junior researchers in a non-academic research role for less than 4 years). If you are in a non-academic role where research is only part of your role, you should contact Adele Irving ([email protected]) for advice on eligibility.

Submission Guidelines

The submission deadline for the 2024 Valerie Karn prize is Friday 29th March.

Papers should be between 3,000 and 6,000 words in length (excluding title, abstract and bibliography)  and submitted in Word format for the attention of Adele Irving, Valerie Karn Prize Officer to [email protected].

Along with your paper please indicate in your submission which of the following ECR criteria you meet and provide a brief explanation or description to justify your response:

  • Masters students, Doctoral students
  • Less than four years full-time equivalent research experience in an academic role with (e.g. postdoctoral researchers within 4 years of PhD completion).
  • Less than four years in a non-academic role where research is only part of your role

The judging panel will assess entries against the following criteria:

  • Writing style/clarity
  • Engagement with literature and theory
  • Methods
  • Empirical rigor/theoretical depth
  • Strength of conclusions
  • Contribution to knowledge weighted to policy/practice relevance
  • Contribution to knowledge in relation to Valerie’s broad research interests as outlined above

Co-authored papers are accepted for the Valerie Karn prize. We require such submissions to include a short description of the entrant’s contribution to the paper. This will be taken into account in the overall scoring of the paper.

Please feel free to contact our Valerie Karn Prize Officer if you have any questions.

The Housing Studies Association (HSA) is a limited company registered in England and Wales under company number 13958843 at 42 Wellington Road, Greenfield, OL3 7AQ.
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