NEWS ECR and student competition to participate in ‘Reconceptualizing Housing Tenure’ seminar

NEWS ECR and student competition to participate in ‘Reconceptualizing Housing Tenure’ seminar

Reconceptualizing Housing Tenure seminar, Cardiff 13th December 2019: ECR and student competition.

This is an announcement of a competition for a funded place as a participant, travel costs to Cardiff from within the UK and overnight accommodation up to the value of £200.

The competition is open to all ECR members of the Housing Studies Association. Non-members can join the HSA by clicking here

On December 13th 2019, a seminar funded by Housing Studies Association/Housing Studies Charitable Trust is being hosted at Cardiff University. The event is on the topic of Reconceptualizing Housing Tenure and has been organised jointly by Craig Gurney, Jenny Hoolachan (both Cardiff University) and Kim McKee (University of Stirling) as a direct response to Alan Murie’s recent blog post on the Housing Studies Association website

Murie argues that our conceptual and theoretical ideas about housing tenure have failed to keep pace with the proliferation of varied bundles of property rights which accompany an increasingly differentiated multi-tenure UK housing system. A timetable for the event and guidance for participants is provided at the end of this document.

The seminar has been kept deliberately small to facilitate participation and discussion amongst experts in the room but there are still up to three places remaining. These three places (along with UK travel expenses to the event and overnight accommodation) have been reserved for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) with an interest in this topic. Applications are invited in the form of an essay to be submitted by Noon (GMT) on Friday 6th December 2019 (submission guidelines are outlined below). For the purposes of this competition ECRs 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).

Submission Guidelines

The submission should take the form of a short essay which describes and explains how attendance at the seminar will benefit your career development and what insights you will be able to bring to the discussion. Essays should be between 1000-1500 words in length and submitted by 12:00 Noon on Friday 6th December to Craig Gurney ( Winners will be notified by Saturday 7th December.

Along with your essay 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 (Craig Gurney, Jenny Hoolachan and Kim McKee) will assess entries against the following criteria:
• Writing style/clarity
• Engagement with key ideas and debates
• Timeliness of this opportunity for your career
• Potential contribution to the seminar



A seminar series supported by the Housing Studies Association (Housing Studies Charitable Trust)
Room -1.59, Glamorgan Building, Cardiff University. Friday 13th December 2019.

9:00. Coffee
9:15. Experiencing tenure. Welcome from seminar organisers: Craig Gurney, Jenny Hoolachan and Kim McKee. Introduction from Helen Taylor (Cardiff Metropolitan University, Vice Chair of HSA)
9:20. Session 1: The fault lines of housing tenure research. Alan Murie (University of Birmingham) Richard Ronald (University of Amsterdam) Chair: Bob Smith (CACHE, University of Glasgow)
10:30. Break
11:00. Session 2: Health, tenure and social practice. Jenny Hoolachan (Cardiff University) Craig Gurney (Cardiff University) Chair: Kim McKee (University of Stirling)
12:15. Lunch
13:15. Session 3: Tenure and home. Rhiannon Craft (Cardiff University) Jennifer Owen (Cardiff University) Chair: Jennie Bibbings (Shelter Cymru)
14:30. Break
14:45: Session 4: Policy responses. Yoric Irving Clarke (Chartered Institute of Housing) Dave Cowan (University of Bristol) Chair: Pete Mackie (Cardiff University)
16:00 Final remarks: Experiencing tenure. Craig Gurney, Jenny Hoolachan and Kim McKee.
16:15 Close.

Reconceptualizing housing tenure: Context, concepts and big questions


Our aim for the seminar series is to promote a thoughtful and critical “outside of the box” conversation between housing academics and practitioners about the ways in which our understandings and use of housing tenure might be reconceptualised.

Alan Murie’s (2019) recent paper on the fault lines for housing research is a timely reminder of the importance of periodically critically re-assessing the building blocks of housing research. He is not the first housing scholar to make an observation about the conceptual limitations of housing tenure, however. As long ago as 1978, Kemeny observed that the relationship between housing tenure and the social structure was “virtually invisible and taken for granted” (p 53); in the 1980s warnings of the dangers of “tenure fetishism” (Gray 1982, p 267), reification and the conceptual chaos of the “tenurists’” arguments (Barlow and Duncan 1988, qv Saunders 1986) were clear. These ideas were subsequently developed elsewhere (see, for instance Somerville and Knowles 1991, Ruonavaara 1993). Despite more recent empirical and conceptual work on “Generation Rent” and housing aspirations (Hoolachan et al 2017, McKee et al. 2019, Preece at al. 2019), Murie’s paper alerts us to a sense of unease that housing researchers’ ability to conceptualise housing tenure has failed to keep pace with ongoing changes to housing markets and housing systems. If it is the case that the 1980s-1990s marked a golden era in conceptual research around housing tenure, then perhaps we are currently experiencing a darker age.

The seminar series aims to illuminate the concept of housing tenure through critical reflection and to ask challenging questions about its future status as a meaningful and useful concept within housing research.


Ruonavaara’s paper on the problems of comparison and translation in housing tenure makes a useful conceptual distinction between essentialist and constructivist approaches. Our seminar series uses this distinction as a starting point for a conversation about the experience of tenure and the framing of tenure thus: In Seminar 1, “Experiencing Tenure” we hope to consider ideas around precarity, security and home. Building on the outputs from seminar 1, our second seminar is provisionally entitled “Framing Tenure” in which we hope to consider the policy and theoretical consequences of our initial discussions. This might, we speculate include aspirations, labelling and stigma.

Big Questions

• How do we respond to the challenge of Murie’s provocative “Fault-Lines of housing research”?
• Are housing tenures the best building blocks for housing research?
• What alternative concepts are on offer? How does the housing imagination constrain or enable us to reconceptualise tenure?
• How does the resurgence of interest in home and “security” help or hinder our thinking?
• Can housing classes be re-imagined in the light of the “Bourdieussian Turn” in social stratification research?
• Can we start to rethink production/consumption; regulation/control; rights/obligations and market/state in relation to housing tenures?
• Have we witnessed the death of a variable? – do tenures predict anything anymore?


Craig Gurney, Jenny Hoolachan and Kim McKee



Barlow, J. and Duncan, S. (1988). The use and abuse of housing tenure. Housing Studies, 3(4), pp.219-231.
Gray, F. (1982). Owner-occupation and social relations. In S. Merret with F. Gray Owner occupation in Britain. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul. pp.267-291.
Hoolachan, J., McKee, K., Moore, T. and Soaita, A.M., (2017) ‘Generation rent’ and the ability to ‘settle down’: economic and geographical variation in young people’s housing transitions. Journal of Youth Studies, 20(1), pp.63-78.
Kemeny, J. (1978). Forms of tenure and social structure: A comparison of owning and renting in Australia and Sweden. The British Journal of Sociology, 29(1), pp.41-56.
McKee, K., Soaita, A. and Hoolachan, J., 2019. ‘Generation Rent’ and the Emotions of Private Renting: self-worth, status and insecurity amongst low-income renters. Housing Studies.
Murie, A. (2019). Building on what we know: Fault Lines for Housing Research [blog] Housing Studies Association website. 19th March 2019. Available at: (Accessed on 08/11/19).
Preece, J., Crawford, J., McKee, K., Flint, J. and Robinson, D., (2019). Understanding changing housing aspirations: a review of the evidence. Housing Studies.
Ruonavaara, H. (1993). Types and forms of housing tenure: Towards solving the comparison/translation problem. Scandinavian Housing and Planning Research, 10(1), pp.3-20.
Saunders, P. (1986) Comment on Dunleavy and Preteceille. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 4(2), pp.155-163.
Somerville, P. and Knowles, A. (1991) The difference that tenure makes. Housing Studies, 6(2), pp.112-130.