Out-of-area displacement: Exploring how England’s housing system is shaping new forms of urban marginalisation

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James Beaumont
PhD student
Housing and real estate, Urban inequalities and social justice
PhD student James's research will focus on households lived experience of out-of-area displacement...

My PhD will focus on households lived experience of out-of-area displacement. Displacement, which is characterised by involuntary residential mobility, is a form of violence that inflicts mental and physical harm. Out-of-area displacement exacerbates such harms as households are not only displaced, but isolated from local support networks.

Out-of-area displacement, whereby homeless households are placed in temporary accommodation in different Local Councils, occur because England’s homeless governance places statutory duties on councils to provide permanent housing. However, councils struggle to provide permanent housing, forcing households into temporary accommodation which is caveated by any offer being conditional on immediate acceptance or risk being deemed ‘intentionally homeless’, which allows councils to discharge their duty of care. Out-of-area displacement practices, often thought of as a London-specific phenomenon, are spreading across England. A 2022 FOI request revealed that over 32,000 outside-council displacements have occurred since 2018-19, with over 6,000 households being displaced by more than 20 miles. My research will explore how England’s housing system is filtering inequality and shaping new forms of marginalisation by relegating vulnerable households outside of their localities.

Ultimately England’s political-economic climate since the 1970s has produced a dysfunctional housing system where instability is increasingly forming part of many peoples day-to-day experience. I myself have lived experience of housing instability. My first family home can be summarised as traumatic, stemming from confrontational family dynamics. I then moved into social housing at 11, which provided some respite. Since I moved out at 19, I have resided in the PRS where I have moved every year on average, although tenancies have ranged from three-months to over two-years. Constant moves have been driven by a variety of factors, such as lifestyle changes, financial considerations, relationship breakdown and toxic house shares.

I can acknowledge that my housing biography has left scars on my mental health. But I do not feel like a victim, nor do I believe that my lived experience is unique. In fact, I feel grateful, in some respects, that such experiences enable me to relate and resonate emotionally to other’s affected by similar circumstances. And as a housing researcher, I feel these experiences empower and compel me to capture the hidden realities of peoples lived experience. Particularly those who occupy a uniquely vulnerable position at the leading edge of housing precarity and social marginalisation.

Thesis title: Out-of-area displacement: Exploring how England’s housing system is shaping new forms of urban marginalisation

Supervisors: Jenny Preece and David Robinson

Prior to university I worked as an apprentice transport planner, which provided my inroad into the planning sector. I then pursued an undergraduate degree in Urban studies, which I completed in 2023, because I wanted to gain a broader understanding of social issues within the sector. My undergraduate course enabled me to tailor my degree to my specific interests, which centre broadly on social inequality. I gravitated towards housing inequality because I felt like the homes acts as the foundation from which all facets of life are built on.

I gained research experience through Sheffield’s Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) in summer 2022. My project explored how the building safety crisis, catalysed by the tragic events at Grenfell tower in 2017, exacerbated housing inequality by negatively impacting affordable housing delivery. This involved collecting primary data from senior officers within housing associations.

I then completed my dissertation project, May 2023, which explored student housing’s impact on individuals’ well-being. It highlighted the myriad of challenges students must navigate through and the consequences this has on their sense of well-being, lived experiences and mental health. Again, this involved collecting primary data through semi-structured interviews with students. My research experience, although challenging, was something I enjoyed.