The ‘Arc of Prosperity’ Revisited: Homelessness Policy Change in North Western Europe

The ‘Arc of Prosperity’ Revisited: Homelessness Policy Change in North Western Europe

This paper compares continuity and change in homelessness policy in Ireland, Scotland and Norway with a particular focus on the period of post-crisis austerity measures (2008–2016). The analytical approach draws on institutional theory and the notion of path dependency, which has rarely been applied to comparative homelessness research. The paper compares welfare and housing systems in the three countries prior to presenting a detailed analysis of the conceptualisation and measurement of homelessness; the institutions which address homelessness; and the evidence of change in the post-2008 period. The analysis demonstrates that challenges remain in comparing the nature of homelessness and policy responses across nation states, even where they have a number of similar characteristics, and despite some EU influence towards homelessness policy convergence. Similarly, national-level homelessness policy change could not be interpreted as entirely a result of the external shock of the 2008 general financial crisis, as existing national policy goals and programmes were also influential. Overall, embedded national frameworks and institutions were resilient, but sufficiently flexible to deliver longer term policy shifts in response to the changing nature of the homelessness problem and national policy goals. Institutionalism and path dependency were found to be useful in developing the comparative analysis of homelessness policy change and could be fruitfully applied in future longitudinal, empirical research across a wider range of countries.

JOURNAL: Homelessness and Social Inclusion
VOLUME: 4
ISSUE: 4
PAGES: 108-124
PUBLICATION DATE: 2016