This thesis makes a contribution to research concerned with access to housing, but differs from the mainstream studies, both in its use of an individualist approach to illuminate differential opportunity within the housing market, and in its focus on private tenants. Its main purpose is to seek explanations for the variations in the housing situations of different types of privately renting household in Plymouth. This is achieved through an examination of the households’ financial and employment circumstances, and through an exploration of the constraints on choice which the households had experienced in the course of searching for accommodation. The work also examines the households' views on their ability to exercise choice over tenure, and their expectations as to future housing. The vast majority of the households had low incomes, and renting privately had been seen as their only tenure option. Most were also very limited in their ability to choose accommodation within the private rented sector. Overall, the Plymouth survey found that constraints associated with the market (landlord discrimination, the cost and availability of property) were more important than individual factors (aspiration level, time to search, urgency of housing need and distance from search area), in determining the quality of the accommodation obtained. Discrimination was experienced by all types of household, but for the unemployed, and especially for families, it caused severe difficulties of access. It emerged as the most significant factor associated with the presence of such households in the worst quality housing. The higher Income households tended to occupy the larger, more self - contained accommodation, but income did not play a part in the quality of the housing obtained. The use of personal contacts was, however, highly important in easing access to the sector. With the exception of the pensioners, nearly all looked to alternative tenures for their future housing, and tenure expectations were associated with occupational and family status. On the whole, the private rented sector was found to provide high cost, poor quality housing, and the realities of landlord/tenant relationships meant that most households felt they had little tenure security. Because of the problems Involved in addressing these concerns, and the insurmountable problem of landlord discrimination, the study argues for a much greater emphasis on social provision of rented housing.

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