This chapter outlines the core themes of the book and puts in place some of the concepts and technical terms used in the analysis of housing policy and housing systems. Attention is particularly drawn to the connection between housing and the development and pattern of welfare states, and it is argued that there is a symbiotic relationship between them. The rise of home ownership is shown to be particularly significant for how we need to think about and understand welfare states in the twenty-first century. The growth of globalised mortgage markets is critical to this story. The idea of the housing stock, of ‘flows’ of dwellings, of the balance of households to dwellings and of housing tenure are all outlined, providing a foundation for interpreting contemporary housing policy. Different types of housing systems are introduced, notably the distinction between nations that have ‘social market’ housing or are dominated by homeownership. These distinctions turn out to be important for how we think about the housing/welfare state connection.
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