• Urban redevelopment;
  • economic performativity;
  • affordable housing;
  • UK


  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. The performativity of economics
  5. Affordable housing in the UK, 1990 to the present: a capsule history
  6. Models and urban worlds-in-making
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

This article explores the potential to mobilize in an urban context the key insights of the burgeoning literature on the performativity of economics. It argues that our understanding of contemporary urban political-economic transformation needs to explicitly recognize the active role of economics in making and remaking the urban world, as opposed to merely describing and analysing it in some kind of passive, detached fashion. It develops this argument through the elaboration of a case study of just such world-making in action: the growing use in the United Kingdom, since the early 2000s, of economic models for assessing the viability of affordable housing provision in new residential developments. The world of urban redevelopment that such models attempt to describe formulaically has, the article submits, increasingly come to act according to the model and the assumptions it contains; the model, in this sense, has been progressively actualized in the urban landscape. The article conceptualizes such performative economic models as examples of what Michel Callon calls economics ‘in the wild’, and it focuses on the work of the leading commercial developer and marketer of such models in the affordable housing planning environment over the last decade — a consulting company called Three Dragons.


  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. The performativity of economics
  5. Affordable housing in the UK, 1990 to the present: a capsule history
  6. Models and urban worlds-in-making
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

One of the more intriguing developments in the social sciences in the past two decades has been an ongoing reconceptualization of the relationship between economics and the socioeconomic world to which such economic knowledge pertains. Scholars from disciplines such as sociology, political theory and anthropology have steadily chipped away at the conventional image of economics as a process of knowledge creation and body of knowledge that merely seeks to represent the world as it is. A profoundly different image has, in the process, begun to cohere: an image of a much more vigorous, material and constitutive set of processes and forms. Economics, says Mitchell (2005: 298), is important ‘not just for what it says but for what it does’ — for what it does, Mitchell and others have shown, is ‘perform’ the world in all sorts of substantive ways. As MacKenzie (2006: 12), another key figure in the literature on the so-called performativity of economics, writes, economics is ‘an active force transforming its environment, not a camera passively recording it’.

This article sets out from the observation that the core insights of this literature have not — to the best knowledge of this author — been embraced and mobilized by urban scholars, nor (for it is not necessarily the same thing) been applied specifically in urban settings. There have been occasional suggestions that the notion of material worlds being performed by economics could have relevance to urban studies, and especially to the formatting of urban housing markets (e.g. Smith, 2005). It is also true that ‘models’ of various forms are increasingly seen to be implicated in shaping our cities: think, perhaps most notably, of the pervasive ‘creative city’ and ‘creative class’ models. But these are not the types of models — calculative, technical, economic models — with which the economic performativity literature and, in turn, this article are concerned.

Meanwhile, the range of socioeconomic worlds seen to be performed by economics, though certainly not only by economics, expands apace: it now includes, inter alia, particular industry sectors (e.g. the ‘creative’ industries, in Christophers, 2007); markets for various products (e.g. cement, in Dumez and Jeunemaître, 2000; and strawberries, in Garcia-Parpet, 2007); and even conditions of perceived macro-scale political-economic crisis (the 1973 oil crisis, in Mitchell, 2010). Yet amongst this proliferating array of environments transformed by economic performativity, the urban remains conspicuous only for its absence.

The objective of this article is to put the economic performativity literature to work in the urban sphere and to demonstrate in the process both the analytical power of its central concepts and the requirement to take seriously economics' performativity in theorizing urban political-economic transformation. The article does this by examining in detail the increasing prominence and utilization in the United Kingdom, over the past decade, of a specific type of economic model: namely, models for assessing the economic viability of providing affordable housing within new residential property development projects. While a host of such viability appraisal models have been developed and marketed in the UK, one company's models have been particularly influential and are thus the central focus of the article — the models of a consultancy called Three Dragons.

The principal argument of the article is broadly as follows. In the years since the type of appraisal model under consideration here was first being developed in the early 2000s, the world pictured in this model — a world of land values, affordable housing quotas, developer profits, and living densities — has, to use the word favoured by Callon (2007: 320–1), gradually come to be ‘actualized’. This has occurred through a complex, iterative set of processes. On the one hand, the model and its authors have — again, after Callon — ‘progressively discover[ed]’ the world that the model refers to; this world is not known at the outset; it is discovered through empirical observation, conceptual incorporation, and analytical experimentation. On the other hand and simultaneously, the model's release, utilization and incorporation into society's decision-making fabric literally ‘put[s] into motion’ the world described in the model. In short, by the time of the model's maturity, ‘the world it supposes has become actual’; its assumptions about the world have become more, not less, accurate. The implication of such actualization is that we cannot understand that world except in relation to the model and the work it has performed. The world and the model are not exactly equivalent, so much as being two sides of same coin. They are, most importantly, not separate, although ironically the appearance of the model's separability from the world is most powerful ‘when the world (finally) acts according to it’.

At the same time, however, the article insists that models such as those examined here must be studied and interpreted in context. They cannot and do not perform the world in some sort of splendid isolation. As we shall see, the increasing use and influence of viability models in relation to UK housing provision has been part of a much wider political-economic and ideological process of embedding of capitalist market relations under neoliberalism. Power flows through these models (some get selected, others do not), structuring their use and allowing them to perform. There is a whole world of activity outside of the model that needs to be taken into account when considering the work it enacts. And yet my argument will be that the models I investigate here have increasingly come to organize the world on their own terms, thus actively reinforcing those political-economic developments to which they initially — merely — gave substance. In turn, human actors, having begun as powerful agents choosing between models and indeed between model-based and other approaches to framing affordable housing provision, have more and more been reduced to the passive role of simply feeding data into the models in question.

The article is divided into three sections: two relatively short pieces of scene-setting, followed by a core section containing the article's main empirical findings and conceptual claims. The first section introduces the literature on economic performativity to which this article appeals. It highlights the main themes within this literature and shows how these have been worked through in different empirical contexts. It also introduces a useful distinction that later parts of the article then draw upon: the distinction between what Mitchell (2005: 298) calls ‘caged economics’ (economics — the scholarly discipline) and what Callon et al. (2002: 196) call economics ‘in the wild’ — the economic techniques, models and calculations embedded in the wider world of business, finance, consulting, policy and regulation. As will become clear, the affordable housing appraisal models investigated in this article are a quintessential example of economics in the wild. That being said, however, these models began life at the dynamic interface of such wild economics with caged economics, and one of the article's aims is to add to the insights already provided by Mitchell and others concerning ‘the relationship between these two forms of economic knowledge’ (Mitchell, 2005: 298).

The second section outlines relatively briefly the recent history of affordable housing policy and practice in the UK. It does so in order that the Three Dragons-type viability assessment models can be situated in their material historical-geographical context, thus allowing the performative dimensions of such models to be meaningfully isolated and teased out.

The third section represents the article's primary contribution. In it, the history of ‘actualization’ delineated above — the history of the appraisal model being progressively actualized in the contemporary city — is broken down into four stages. Actualization did not occur abruptly; but haltingly, by degrees, and, significantly, at constantly shifting geographical scales. In the first stage, which takes us up to the year 2000, the question of economic viability and its calculation did not feature substantively in affordable housing policy; the models to define and adjudicate it had not yet been built, nor therefore made it worldly. This changes in the second stage, when collaboration at the intersection of caged and wild economics results in the crystallization of the viability appraisal model. The model, relatively quickly, now begins to shape the world that gave rise to it, and viability enters the lexicon of affordable housing policy for good. The third stage, which runs to around 2008, is one in which the model's performative impact spreads geographically and deepens institutionally — the model is no longer just a locus of deliberations over the place of affordable housing in urban development, but the critical locus. The fourth and final stage sees the model reach maturity. At this point, the article submits, so central has the viability metric — and the model's assessment of it — become that development projects are not considered valid unless envisioned through this model, and that even where the model appears to be adapting to the world the world is, in fact, adapting to the model.

The performativity of economics

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. The performativity of economics
  5. Affordable housing in the UK, 1990 to the present: a capsule history
  6. Models and urban worlds-in-making
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

The 1998 collection of essays The Laws of the Markets, edited by Callon (1998b), marked a seminal contribution to the emergent literature on economic performativity. In it, Callon and the authors of the other chapters all sought to advance the argument that, as Callon (1998a: 2) wrote, ‘economics, in the broad sense of the term, performs, shapes and formats the economy, rather than observing how it functions’. Traditionally, according to Callon, histories of ‘economy’ had examined either economic thought or economic activities; with only a relatively few notable exceptions — Karl Polanyi's (1944) The Great Transformation being cited as one — attempts to fuse the two by considering their mutual co-constitution had not been made.

Yet in itself The Laws of the Markets represented a relatively restricted attempt at conceptualizing the productive work of economics, particularly insofar as the focus of the present article is concerned. Despite lamenting the dualistic nature of existing historical narratives, the book did not, by Callon's own admission (1998a: 2), offer an alternative historical perspective; its perspective was ‘a deliberately anthropological one’. What this meant in practice was that its emphasis was largely on people — or what Callon, after Robert Guesnerie, labelled ‘calculative agencies’ — rather than on the types of analytical models and toolkits we are primarily concerned with here.

Perhaps the one significant exception was the chapter in The Laws of the Markets by Peter Miller (1998). Here, and indeed in his voluminous other work in the years preceding and following the publication in question, Miller makes as compelling and robust a case as anyone for the performative facets of calculative economic practices. In Miller's case these practices are primarily the techniques of Western accounting. (Foucault is Miller's main theoretical touchstone, but he acknowledges that much earlier writers, Karl Marx and Max Weber among them, had already provided vital insights into the productive role of accounting within capitalism.) In the equally important and influential work of MacKenzie, meanwhile, such practices tend to be more obscure: sophisticated financial models and formulae such as, most famously, the Black-Scholes option pricing theorem. MacKenzie's landmark text on such models (MacKenzie, 2006) demonstrates how, over the course of the second half of the twentieth century, these models ultimately served to reconfigure the world of financial markets that they originally strove merely to understand. It is a history of economic performativity par excellence: one of models being actualized in the shape of a world increasingly conforming to their strictures.

This, then, is the stream of scholarship on performative economics that is most directly relevant here. Before moving on to consider, in the next section, the particular worldly context in which these ideas will be mobilized in this article, four observations on the content and direction of the literature in question are, I think, important.

First, in the best such work, there is certainly no suggestion that models and other calculative practices produce and format the world to the exclusion of all other inputs. Not only do other forces and agencies shape political-economic worlds in all sorts of obviously substantive ways, but, equally significantly, one can only properly discern the performative materiality of economics if its performativity is considered alongside and explicitly in relation to those other factors (see especially Mirowski and Nik-Khah, 2007).

Second, while all models arguably have the potential to be performative, not all are in reality. As Svetlova (2012) has argued in her analysis of discounted cash flow financial models, just because such models are implicated in substantive organizational practices does not make them productively performative. The degree of a model's performative power depends on a whole series of conjunctural factors, institutional design arguably foremost amongst them.

Third, and following on from the previous point, one key determinant of a model's potential performative force is the location of its formulation and circulation. Is it an academic economic model, born in academia and confined forever to debates within scholarly journals and among those who read them — an artefact, that is to say, of Mitchell's ‘caged economics’? Or is it a more ‘worldly’ model from the very start, one designed, say, by consultants, with a particular policy application in mind — an artefact of Callon's ‘wild’ economics? Miller's accounting practices, notwithstanding occasional bursts of interchange with academic accounting theory, belong solidly in the latter category; the Black-Scholes theorem, on the other hand, began life in the former category (as a 1973 journal article) but became performative when released into the wild. This latter trajectory — models developed in academia being adopted and applied outside the university world — is a relatively common one. The viability appraisal models examined in this article demonstrate something different again in terms of development and application location, with important implications for the course of their actualization.

Fourth and most critically of all, there is a danger, which needs to be acknowledged and confronted at all points, that the performativity of economics can end up being a rather empty truism unless the wider social and political materiality of such performativity is explored and conceptualized. Or, put bluntly: economics is performative, but so what? Recognizing that economic models make and mould markets and other socioeconomies may be interesting, but should it not be more than that? Mennicken and Miller (2012: 5) make this argument powerfully in a recent article, where they criticize the fact that much work in the economic performativity field has stopped short of addressing how ‘models alter or shape modalities of governing and forms of political power’. As they emphasize: ‘a much wider phenomenon than financial markets and the models that animate and operationalize them is at issue here’. Indeed so; and ‘unless we pay attention to both the conditions and consequences of metrics and models … performativity can be an empty notion’ (ibid., original emphasis). Avoiding performativity's reduction to such an empty notion is, thus, a core objective of this article, one pursued by placing the world-making of economic models firmly in the context of urban political-economic transformation — both empirically and, in the article's concluding section, theoretically.

Affordable housing in the UK, 1990 to the present: a capsule history

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. The performativity of economics
  5. Affordable housing in the UK, 1990 to the present: a capsule history
  6. Models and urban worlds-in-making
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

The concept, language and practices of ‘affordable housing’ have long and varied histories. What is constant across time and space, however, is that affordable housing is a creature of market- and private-property-based economies: it is in such economies, structured as they are by capitalist and individualized monetary relations, that the yoking of ‘affordable’ to ‘housing’ becomes meaningful; and thus perhaps the best generalist definition of affordable housing would be the provision of housing at below-market prices. As a case in point, affordable housing specifically in the historical-geographical context we are concerned with here — contemporary Britain — is classified by the government as ‘social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing, provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market’.1

Prior to the 1990s, affordable housing in the UK was not explicitly labelled as such. From the postwar era through the 1970s, government housing objectives were oriented primarily to the fulfilment of ‘needs’ not met by market solutions (private rental and owner-occupation). The two primary means of meeting such perceived needs were through social ownership and subsidized rents. However, a shift towards an alternative means of provision was signalled in the 1980s by the then Conservative government's policies of privatization (sale to sitting tenants) and quasi-privatization (transfer from local authorities to housing associations) of social housing stock. Such policies led to widespread and growing concern about the ongoing availability of housing for those whom the existing needs-based policies ostensibly served.

It was in the context of such concerns that the decision was taken by the same Conservative administration to provide the majority of new ‘non-market’ housing, from 1990 onwards, through mechanisms located within the land-use planning system. This decision reflected and in turn buttressed a shift in overall housing policy objectives from (social) ‘needs’ to (economic) ‘affordability’ (Whitehead, 1991). And thus, in the UK context, the language of ‘affordable housing’ was, essentially, born. Quite clearly this latter shift was part of the much wider, well-documented transition from managerial to entrepreneurial or neoliberal urbanism — and indeed neoliberalism more broadly — whereby capitalist market relations became ‘naturalized’ in the built environment (Harvey, 1989). And as we shall see, the viability models which would later ‘perform’ affordable housing provision embodied such naturalization: market supply of housing was natural, and hence affordable housing was only possible insofar as the market could (viably) produce it.

The two key pieces of legislation in newly privileging the planning system within affordable housing supply were the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act and the 1991 Planning and Compensation Act. These were swiftly supplemented by more specific guidance documents (DE, 1991; 1992). Provision of affordable housing ‘was made a material consideration for granting permission for residential sites’ and ‘local planning authorities that could show the need for affordable housing at development plan stage [could] require that a proportion of housing be affordable on a site by site basis’ (Whitehead, 2007: 33). As early as the mid-1980s, a handful of local authorities had begun to negotiate with developers through the planning system to secure a proportion of affordable housing on larger private-sector sites (Barlow et al., 1994: 3). The legislation and guidance of the early 1990s sought to institutionalize and generalize this approach through its operationalization of planning obligations. The affordable housing obligations undertaken by developers to make their proposals acceptable in planning terms, under Section 106 of the 1990 Act, have typically entailed on-site provision, although alternative means of delivery — in the shape of either off-site provision or a financial contribution — have been and remain available. By the mid-2000s, the use of Section 106 to provide affordable housing was in operation in over 90% of local authorities, with growth in use of this mechanism having occurred alongside a sharp fall in the provision of traditional social housing (Whitehead, 2007: 34).

Subsequent to the core legislation and guidance of the early 1990s, the government has published a series of statements on housing in general — and affordable housing in particular — to provide advice both on interpretation of the legislation and on central government's evolving expectations in respect of affordable housing best practice. This evolving policy discourse reflected, inter alia, the fact that the very notion of ‘affordable housing’ took some time to acquire meaningful definition. Indeed, research carried out in 1993 revealed that although approximately 70% of local authorities claimed to have an affordable housing policy, many remained concerned that the lack of a precise definition hindered their ability to negotiate with developers (Barlow et al., 1994). One function of the viability appraisal models examined in this article, I will suggest, has in fact been to help crystallize such a precise, shared definition.

The subsequent guidance has covered a wide range of issues, of which four stand out as consistently central:

  1. The requirement for local authorities to carry out their own local affordable housing needs assessments and to develop accordingly their own policies (especially ODPM, 2000);
  2. Advice specifically on the use of the pivotal Section 106 agreements (ODPM, 2005);
  3. Stipulation of the site size threshold above which affordable housing was a requirement in new urban residential developments, which declined from 25 dwellings or 1 hectare (15 dwellings/0.5 hectares in inner London) in 1998 (DETR, 1998) to 15 dwellings in 2006 (CLG, 2006b; with two revised editions published in 2010 and one in 2011); and
  4. Periodic evaluations of progress made, difficulties encountered and recommendations for tackling these (ODPM, 2002; CLG, 2006a).

These various documents, together with the original 1990/91 legislation and Section 106 in particular, have provided the essential regulatory framework against the backdrop of which a new era of (at least ostensibly) affordable UK housing provision has unfolded over the past two decades. It is the framework to which local authorities are beholden and to which property developers must therefore, in turn, seek to adhere. And it represents, as such, the official framing of a world which, simultaneously, has come to conform to the formulae of the development viability appraisal models we turn to now.

Models and urban worlds-in-making

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. The performativity of economics
  5. Affordable housing in the UK, 1990 to the present: a capsule history
  6. Models and urban worlds-in-making
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

Before viability

In the 1990s there was no such thing as a formal, discrete, publically-visible and commercially-marketed model for assessing the economic viability of providing affordable housing within new residential property development projects — no model, in the terms favoured in this article, according to which the world could, yet, act. It did not exist. Equally, the concept that would come to constitute the key dependent variable and hence foundational principle of such models — viability itself — was not, in this decade, an explicit, mutually-acknowledged, ineluctable consideration in negotiations between local authorities and residential property developers.

It is important, however, to be very clear about what is — and is not — being argued here. Is it that the viability of including affordable housing within new developments was not taken into account in negotiations between local authorities and developers? Absolutely not: it would be nonsensical to imagine that developers did not have economic viability uppermost in mind when seeking to render development proposals acceptable to local planning authorities. The argument, rather, is about how — and by whom — viability was taken into account, and thus how much power was ultimately vested in the elaboration of this particular metric; it is about the nature of the relationship between the world of development and the a priori assessment of development's viability. To be sure, viability always came into play. But it did so opportunistically and flexibly, not of necessity and deterministically. Where and when appropriate, developers raised questions about viability to gain leverage in negotiations (‘unless you, the planning authority, can relax your requirements, we cannot make this development pay and hence will not proceed’); viability was not something written into the fabric of policy and of the planning process, as it soon would be.

This is not to suggest that in all its guidance provided through the 1990s the government overlooked viability considerations altogether. It did not: its 1998 circular (DETR, 1998: 6) noted that when using planning obligations to deliver affordable housing local authorities should ‘take account of the needs of developers and registered social landlords who must ensure that schemes are financially viable.’ Yet the question of how the authorities should take such account was not broached, and this despite an influential report commissioned by the Department of the Environment 5 years previously having observed that it was ‘unrealistic to expect local planning authorities to have a detailed understanding of development economics’ (Barlow et al., 1994: 57).

In short, viability had not yet begun to be elevated — in policy or practice — to the status with which our appraisal models' development and adoption would later confer it: the principal locus of affordable housing world-making. Inklings of what was to come were, however, already apparent. While admitting that local authorities could not be expected to be experts in housing development economics, the aforementioned consultancy report opined that ‘it should be possible [for such authorities] to obtain a picture of the broad parameters of development viability’ (ibid.). More specifically, and foreshadowing what happened next, the report suggested that ‘independent valuers’ could be used by local authorities in negotiations. What the report authors were not to know was that these ‘valuers’ would ultimately be, not ‘expert’ individuals, but the models they constructed.

London calling

The actualization of affordable housing viability models into the world of UK affordable housing development was a process that began in London. In 2000, the Mayor's Housing Commission proposed a target for the proportion of affordable housing in new development — 50% — that was significantly higher not only than actual output figures in the late 1990s, but also than the proportion most London boroughs were themselves targeting. In the face of criticism from developers that the 50% target was simply not deliverable, the Greater London Authority (GLA), which was preparing guidance to the London boroughs on affordable housing policy as part of its work towards the first London Plan, commissioned external experts to assess this question of deliverability (Bowie, 2010; Cousins et al., 2001).

The team awarded this job represented a coalition that straddled the boundary between wild and caged economics: in the former camp were consultants from the company Three Dragons (which had been founded in 1996), while academics from the Centre for Residential Development (CRD) at Nottingham Trent University came from the latter realm. Immediately, however, it is critical to observe that the distinction between these two economic spheres was (and indeed, often is) a malleable, fluid and ambiguous one: one of the Three Dragons consultants, for instance, worked as a part-time research fellow at the CRD from 2000 through 2004, while one of the CRD academics would later head up Three Dragons. The history of the appraisal models examined in this article suggests, in fact, that the boundary between wild and caged economics is better conceptualized not as a clear, narrow dividing line but as a relatively broad ‘trading zone’ into which actors from either side periodically step for the purposes of sharing, collaborating, and creating.

Such, in any event, appears to have been the case for the CRD/Three Dragons. To assess the question of deliverability, the team built an economic model — a model to estimate the financial viability of affordable housing delivery in each of the 33 London boroughs, and a model whose objectives, structure and outputs are discussed in the 2001 report Affordable Housing in London (authored by the team in question, and published by the GLA) (Cousins et al., 2001). The model allowed for viability in each of the boroughs to be assessed under a series of different scenarios, which were distinguished by variance in the residential mix of hypothetical new development, in key market conditions, and in major policy variables. On the basis of its scenario building, the team concluded from the model that, assuming the ongoing availability of public subsidy, the 50% affordable housing target was achievable in just under two-thirds of the 33 London boroughs.

How should we understand this model, its relation to the world of residential development, and the work it would begin now to perform? I want to suggest, as I did in the introduction to the article, that we must conceptualize an iterative relationship. The world would begin to be actualized by the model, as we shall shortly see; but the model and its builders first had to discover things about the world to be actualized, in the form in which it appeared to exist at that time. They did so through a process of data analysis described in the 2001 report. They studied existing affordable housing practices and policies in the London boroughs and ‘concluded that two variables, above all others, provide the key to the financial viability of affordable housing delivery. They are house prices and density’ (ibid.: 6). Already, then, even before the model had been built, truths about the world it sought to describe had seemingly been unearthed.

The significance of this discovery should not be minimized. The team's discovery would format the structure of the model and would thus necessarily come to shape, in turn, the world in which the model became actualized. How, exactly, did it do this? As we have intimated, the model allowed its user to ‘flex’ different variables to construct different scenarios under which affordable housing viability could be appraised. But which variables could be flexed, and which were inflexible? This is always a conundrum for a model builder; not everything can be variable, at the user's discretion. For the model in question, a limited number of variables (six) were made adjustable, two of which were house prices and density. The model, in this sense, internalized the ‘discovery’ of these two factors' overdetermination of project viability. They were made critical variables because they were — or were seen to be — critical variables.

Equally important and interesting, meanwhile, was what was not flexible in the model. For, in their analysis of existing practices, the team had discovered something else: the crux of the developer's business model, namely (and not surprisingly!) profit seeking. Hence, the model proceeded from the assumption that the ‘maximum that the developer will be prepared to pay for land is equal to expected revenue from house sales minus all costs, including normal profit’, where the latter is defined as ‘profit [that] is necessary to reward the developer for entrepreneurship’, and ‘without [which] development will not be commercially viable’ and therefore will not proceed (ibid.: 11). To be deemed viable, in other words, a project had to deliver a profit, and this profit was written into the model as an inflexible assumption — 15% of market value, according to an appendix tucked away at the back of the report (ibid.: 68).

There are of course a number of interesting aspects to this assumption. One could, for example, reflect on the oddity of encountering the concepts ‘necessary profit’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ in such close juxtaposition; the element of risk ordinarily associated with the latter has been removed by the imposition of necessity. For our present purposes, however, the critical feature is the inflexibility, and thus presumed normality, of developer profit-making. Profit is permanently inscribed into the infrastructure of the model as necessary. And if, as I shall argue now, the model would immediately begin to perform the world it was representing, the only possible basis for denying the significance of such an inscription — namely, that ‘it's only a model’ — is clearly moot. The significance, in fact, will be clear: through its inscription into the fabric of the model, the normality of profit would also, in turn, come to be inscribed into the fabric of the urban world that increasingly conforms to that model.

This brings us therefore to the reciprocal component of the iterative relationship introduced above: the question of how a model informed by ‘discoveries’ about the world starts to shape the latter. It does — or did — so gradually, and in different domains. The first was the policy arena. Buttressed by the substantiation provided by the appraisal model, the issue of economic viability soon formally infiltrated affordable housing policy considerations at both the local and national scales. As Bowie (2010: 45) has noted in regard to the former, the Three Dragons/CRD report on viability ‘was useful to the Mayor [of London] in supporting his overall [affordable housing] target’. At the same time, the national government's periodic statements on affordable housing policy, which had previously lacked substantive discussion of viability, now began to highlight it.

We will more fully consider this permeation of the policy field in the next sub-section, but one very important effect was to help explicitly embed viability considerations within another, connected domain: that of on-the-ground negotiations between local authorities and developers. As noted above, the question of viability had of course never been absent from negotiations; but it had arisen opportunistically, not by design. This now changed. Consider the guidance on affordable housing provision contained in the government's 2005 circular Planning obligations. ‘In some instances, perhaps arising from different regional or site-specific circumstances, it may not be feasible for the proposed development to meet all the requirements set out in local, regional and national planning policies and still be economically viable’. In such cases, it was assumed that both the developers and the public sector would need to make contributions to meet any expected shortfall; and local authorities were advised that ‘decisions on the level of contributions should be based on negotiation with developers over the level of contribution that can be demonstrated as reasonable to be made whilst still allowing development to take place’ (ODPM, 2005: section B10).

Most important of all, however, is the fact that it was not just viability per se — an abstract economic concept — that began now to be written into policy and into negotiations procedures, and thus to shape affordable housing practices. It was, much more substantively, the particular modelling approach to knowledge creation and legitimation that had given credence to the materiality of viability. The Three Dragons/CRD team had expressed a strong conviction that their model could be useful in negotiations — particularly for the London boroughs, by ‘strengthening their hand’ vis-à-vis developers likely to be better informed on development economics. The model could ‘help boroughs in understanding the basic development economics of schemes they are dealing with and in negotiations with developers’ (Cousins et al., 2001: 26). And, in this vein, the executive summary of the team's report ended with a recommendation that was to prove highly prescient, gesturing affirmatively towards precisely the kind of performative world-making we will be exploring further below: ‘The Model developed for this research provides a valuable tool to aid decision-making in the future. The GLA should put in place arrangements to keep it up to date and to make it available (in an adapted form) for use by boroughs in their policymaking and development control activities’ (ibid.: viii).

Just one question remains to be asked before we move on to examine the ways in which the Three Dragons-type appraisal models increasingly bedded in to the landscape of UK affordable housing development in the middle years of the decade: When the CRD/Three Dragons team reported their findings, and local and national government began to incorporate them into policy and practice, was there no debate around, or even resistance to, the creation and use of such models? The answer is that, yes, there was — and yet the restricted nature of such debate demonstrates quite how powerfully the model and its prescriptions were already, at this early stage, beginning to be actualized.

The report itself had done its best to circumscribe where any such questioning would be focused. In short, it suggested that what remained open to question was not the appropriateness of using calculative models — this matter was not even raised — but merely the level and kind of possible future refinements to the model which had already been built. That a model was a suitable vehicle for articulating truths about the world as it was, and for conjecturing the possible complexion of the world as it might be, was taken as read. The prescriptive narrowing down of potential debate was effected, in particular, in relation to the question of using the model not (as it had been in the 2001 report) for borough-wide viability appraisal but — in the future — for the appraisal of the viability of individual development projects. ‘Although the model can be used for scheme-specific analysis as it stands, its structure would make this a somewhat clumsy exercise’. It would be clumsy; not unsuitable. ‘Further refinement to the structure of the model’, it was therefore advised, ‘is needed to make it a more user-friendly aid to decision making’ (ibid.: 27). One could therefore debate the model structure, but not the viability — to use an apposite word — of the model.

As it turned out, debate did not even extend this far. Not only was the modelling approach broadly accepted, but so too was the structure of the Three Dragons prototype. Instead, debate, such as it was, focused on the even narrower matter of the particular quantitative assumptions fed into the model — likely a reflection, in part at least, of the nature of the parties to whom the debate was actually opened up. Bowie (2010: 45, emphasis added) relates the pertinent details:

The model used by the consultants was criticized as being oversimplistic and for underestimating land acquisition costs. The GLA, in conjunction with the Government Office for London and in response to criticisms, commissioned an independent evaluation of the report and the model on which it was based from a separate set of consultants, Atis Real Wetherall. They concluded that, although the overall approach had validity, an average land price assumption of £3.7m a hectare, nearly double that assumed by Three Dragons, would be more appropriate.

The specific assumptions fed into the model by the CRD/Three Dragons team had not been widely accepted; the use of such models for adjudicating residential development proposals already had been.

Bedding in

Since the moment of its original crystallization and publication in the London context in 2001, the Three Dragons appraisal model has gone on to enjoy enormous commercial success across the length and breadth of the UK. It has been used, in its various updated forms, by a large number of local authorities, both to underpin their assessments of local affordable housing needs and the possibilities for the provision thereof, and to inform their evaluations of the viability of particular residential development proposals; by other public sector and voluntary sector clients, to sharpen their own understandings of affordable housing development economics; and by various private-sector clients, most notably developers and landowners, to assist them in their planning for the affordable housing components of new project developments. A sample listing of Three Dragons clients is shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Three Dragons clients — sample listing (Source:, retrieved 1 May 2012; and author research)

Download figure to PowerPoint

This is not to say that Three Dragons has had the viability appraisal modelling market — a market that its report and model for the GLA effectively originated — all to itself. Unsurprisingly, other consultants have been quick to appreciate the growing demand for such models and to develop and market their own, competing versions. Perhaps the most significant competitor has been the multi-service, large-scale property advisor GVA, which, like Three Dragons, includes many local authorities amongst its clients (as does Adams Integra). Other, more specialist companies have focused exclusively on the private-sector, developer market. One example is the consultancy firm Section 106 Management, which has performed viability appraisals for several developers, and which markets itself on an unambiguous line that speaks volumes for the extent to which the phenomenon of ‘developer profit normalization’ discussed above has been inscribed into the landscape of UK affordable housing by the embedding of the Three Dragons-type model: ‘If the profit margin for your scheme is pushed to below 15% by Section 106 payments — you should be talking to us’.2

Again, a couple of features about these competitive models — and the nature of the competition between them — bear highlighting. The first point repeats, in a slightly different form, an argument developed in the previous sub-section. That is, the most significant factor concerning these various models is that the question faced by the different stakeholders in the affordable housing development context is an extremely restricted one: not whether to use a model, but which model to use. Second, the pervasive influence of the Three Dragons model is apparent in the fact that even where a different model is being used to assess viability, there is seemingly an unwritten obligation to reference this model to the Three Dragons ‘master’ version. Witness the following, typical statement, taken from a GVA appraisal for Plymouth City Council in 2011: ‘A set of standardized assumptions reflecting build costs and fees, contingencies, profits, finance rates, etc. have been made’, and these ‘accord with those used in other Models including the Three Dragons toolkit’.3 The obligation to cross-reference between models likely reflects at least in part the fact that, as MacKenzie and Spears (2012) have recently argued in a different context, the power of such models derives substantially from their provision of a common language perhaps otherwise lacking — a function that often overrides any deficiencies in the models themselves.

The spread of the use of the Three Dragons and competing models to all corners of the UK over the past decade has occurred alongside — and been firmly buttressed and stimulated by — their growing institutionalization in the policy sphere. Again, we can see this clearly at both local and national levels. It is perhaps most vividly apparent in London, where of course the model originally came to life, and where each iteration of the London Plan has advised the boroughs to use the Three Dragons model. The first (2004) Plan made this case as follows:

On individual private residential and mixed-use sites, the Mayor will expect boroughs to use development appraisals in order reasonably to maximise the amount of affordable housing provision … In estimating provision from private residential or mixed-use developments, boroughs should take into account economic viability and the most effective use of private and public investment, including use of financial contributions. The development control toolkit developed by the Three Dragons and Nottingham Trent University is one mechanism that will help (Mayor of London, 2004: sections 3.38 and 3.41).

In reality, the ‘one mechanism that will help’ clause understates the degree to which viability modelling in general — and the Three Dragons model specifically — has in fact become a default element of contemporary land-use planning processes in London. Consider, in this respect, the following line from a 2010 council report on the proposed regeneration of the Elephant and Castle area of south London: ‘within the Elephant and Castle Opportunity Area, the Southwark Plan policy requires at least 35% of all new housing to be provided as affordable with a tenure mix of 50% social rent and 50% intermediate. Where developers propose to vary this policy on the grounds of viability, a “Three Dragons” tool kit appraisal is required to support the application’.4

At the national level, the issue of economic viability was, by the middle of the decade, firmly implanted in central government policy statements on affordable housing — it is a central theme of both Delivering Affordable Housing (CLG, 2006a) and, in particular, Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (CLG, 2006b), which emphasizes that local authorities must pay close heed to development economics and not promote policies that might make new development unviable. The actual use of viability appraisal models as a core element of recommended best practice has been most doggedly advocated in recent years by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), the housing and regeneration agency for England since 2008. A visit to the HCA's website reveals that it makes available free of charge its own viability testing model (the ‘Development Appraisal Tool’), intended primarily to ‘assist local authorities manage negotiations with developers to deliver affordable housing and other planning obligations’.5 The genealogy of this particular model itself makes for interesting reflection. It replaced in 2011 the HCA's previous model, the Economic Appraisal Tool, which was developed for the HCA in 2009 by GVA and the Bespoke Property Group, and which, in turn, built on an even earlier model: one launched in 2006 by the Housing Corporation (the public body that funded new affordable housing and regulated housing associations in England up to 2008, when it was replaced by the HCA and the Tenant Services Authority), and built for the latter by: yes, the Three Dragons/CRD team.

And so, by the middle years of the decade and certainly no later than 2008, the UK had reached a point at which the vast majority of negotiations over planning-driven affordable housing occurred in an environment saturated by viability-talk and viability appraisal models. Such models were the lingua franca of negotiations. The pertinent government agencies made models available and strongly championed their use. Local authorities used either the free models that paid-for versions had spawned, or opted for the latter and received consultancy and negotiating advice in addition to the bare Excel toolkit. And those on the other side of the negotiating table — the developers — were armed with essentially the same models, albeit exploiting them to envision different economic scenarios and to achieve different ends. (Indeed, some local authorities that use the Three Dragons model actively encourage the developers they are talking to, to do likewise.6 ) The world was awash with models; but how has the enactment of the world through these models ultimately transpired?

The world enacted

This final section of the article will examine in some detail, partly through a focus on individual development projects, the striking ways in which our viability appraisal model can be seen to be formatting the contemporary UK city. It maintains that this formatting is occurring to the degree, as I submitted in the introduction, that the world is increasingly made to adapt to the model even where the obverse relation appears to hold, and that now (after Callon) ‘the world [the model] supposes has become actual’.

The first component of this argument involves making a relatively straightforward observation about the unifying or homogenizing effects of the model's widespread adoption. The point is simply stated: everyone is using (more-or-less) the same model, and therefore the UK urban landscape comes increasingly to feature the particular types of new residential development that the model validates as ‘viable.’ There is a considerable irony in this outcome, moreover, since one of the starting premises of the 2001 CRD/Three Dragons report (Cousins et al., 2001: vii) had been that affordable housing policy under the London Plan ‘should have regard to the differences between boroughs’. Of course one might argue that the appraisal model does offer precisely such regard to geographical variation, in that differences between places are fed into the model in the form of different input assumptions. But, critically, and as we saw above, the variation allowed for by the model is inherently limited: only a small subset of the variables in the model are adjustable. And one of those not adjustable, of course, is the developer's need for comfortable profit margins (‘the toolkit acknowledges’, one local authority recently noted, ‘that the developer needs to make a profit’7 ); developer unprofitability thus being one outcome explicitly disallowed from permeating the urban landscape. The increasing homogenization that results — a homogenization of the ideational definition of affordable housing, as well as its physical instantiation — is a far cry from the heterogeneous world ‘discovered’ by the CRD/Three Dragons team more than a decade ago now, in which they found that ‘London boroughs are interpreting affordable housing policy in a range of ways’ (ibid.: 1).

While the material influence now exerted by viability appraisal models in urban planning processes has not been widely recognized, Bowie's work on London is an exception. His work is significant for registering something of the tangible texture of this influence — how exactly it materializes, and in what specific socio-political settings — which is an issue I expand upon below; and for pointing to the power that modelling hegemony accords to viability considerations. Noting that data in appraisals are usually commercially confidential, Bowie (2010: 191) continues:

Some toolkit appraisals have nevertheless been debated in detail in planning inquiries, which implies that the appraisal system is treated as a material consideration, whereas it is the policy application which is the fundamental issue in dispute. An appraisal will show only whether a proposal is or is not economically viable and not whether or not is acceptable in policy terms.

And yet despite this insight, Bowie still concludes that the impact of the nationwide institutionalization of the appraisal system on ‘affordable housing outputs’ is ‘relatively marginal’ (ibid.: 192).

This is surely not correct. With the models and their outputs indeed being widely mobilized not just in local authority-developer negotiations but in the public inquiries that are often required to settle matters, the world of affordable housing is now acting according to the models' edicts.

Consider, for instance, a high-profile recent case in the Haringey borough of north London: Tottenham Hotspur Football Club's project to build a new stadium, which will also include in the region of 200 homes — a project labelled the Northumberland Development Project.8 The club signed a Section 106 agreement incorporating affordable housing obligations, and thus secured planning permission, in September 2011. However it then rapidly returned to the two relevant planning authorities — Haringey Council and the GLA — with an appeal to renegotiate: the originally consented scheme, it submitted, was actually not financially viable after all. It therefore requested that a revised agreement be drawn up, with the affordable housing obligations removed entirely.

The GLA's response was to observe that the club's request ‘would quite clearly be contrary to the London Plan’. One might imagine that this would have shut the door summarily on the club's appeal — that the club would have to proceed under the terms of the original agreement, or see planning permission revoked. But such a presumption would be to belie the world-making power of the viability model. Thus, the GLA added a key clause to its response: the club's request was contrary to the London Plan ‘unless it can be justified on the basis of a robust appraisal of financial viability, submitted to and independently reviewed on behalf of [the] planning authorities’. And so the club provided the GLA and Haringey Council with its viability appraisal; the council engaged the financial advisors Grant Thornton and BNP Paribas to review the appraisal as the GLA had insisted; and these advisors concurred with the club, to the council's satisfaction, that the originally consented scheme indeed was not viable. The upshot was that the council agreed a revised Section 106 agreement with the club in February 2012, exactly along the lines of the latter's request. Viability — predicated on scheme profitability — having been refuted, the project was not scrapped; the affordable housing element thereof was. In Bowie's terms, viability had been privileged over policy; but it had done so precisely because of the model-driven elevation of viability within the domain of both policy and practice.

A second recent example, again from London, demonstrates even more forcefully how the viability assessment models we have been discussing here have become active forces enacting their worldly environments. This case concerns a proposed luxury development in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.9 Once again, the core issue at stake was whether it was economically viable for a provision to be made for affordable housing. But in this case, which involved a bewildering series of planning and legal decisions whereby one overturned another, the viability model stretched beyond the epistemological function we have seen it perform above to assume — and I use the word advisedly — a nothing less than ontological role.

Before explaining what is meant by this, the basic facts of the case need delineating. There were four key episodes of decision making. First, the borough denied planning permission for the new development on the grounds that it did not include affordable housing. Second, following an appeal by the developer, Vannes KFT, and a public inquiry held in the middle of 2009, the planning inspector determined that affordable housing need not be provided, and that the development could therefore proceed as originally scoped. Third, the borough appealed and in the High Court succeeded in April 2010 in overturning the inspector's appeal decision. Fourth and finally, the developer successfully appealed this decision, with the Court of Appeal restoring the inspector's original decision in December 2010. The developer had won. As in Haringey, there would be no affordable housing provided.

There was, however, a fundamental difference between the role of economic viability models in the two cases. In Haringey, the ultimate decision rested on a truth putatively furnished by the viability appraisal: the truth that affordable housing was not economically viable. In Kensington and Chelsea, by contrast, the ultimate decision rested not on the content of the knowledge generated by the appraisal but on its truth status. More specifically, the central issue — and the one on which the High Court and the Court of Appeal disagreed — became whether or not the question of viability had been adequately evaluated and, underlying this, whether or not the inspector had correctly understood the viability model numbers and suitably judged the reliability thereof. In sum, the case ended up being less about the proposed development, and much more about the model.

Perhaps inevitably, the model in question was Three Dragons', which was used by both the Borough and the developer. (‘There was no dispute that it was an appropriate toolkit to use’.) At the 2009 public inquiry, each party came armed with its version of the model, populated with customized input values for each of the adjustable input variables. The economics of the proposed development looked very different depending on which iteration of the model one looked at: ‘The Council's toolkit evidence at the inquiry showed a positive value of over £10 million whilst the [developer's] toolkit evidence showed a deficit of over £7 million’.

In coming to his decision, the inspector judged that the model results were not sufficiently robust for any significant weight to be attached to them. Thus, while recognizing the importance of the issue of viability, he decided that the question could not be satisfactorily resolved, and hence based his decision to allow the development — sans affordable housing — on other grounds, most notably the aim of the London Plan to support London's development as ‘the main world city.’ The borough contested his decision in the High Court because it saw an inconsistency: the inspector had sided with the developer without determining the question of viability, yet the developer's stated position (that including affordable housing rendered their proposed development unviable) depended on their version of the model being ‘correct’. The High Court (Sir Michael Harrison) agreed: the inspector could not rely on the developer's stated position because this position hung on an issue (viability) that he, the inspector, had failed to determine; failure to do so thus constituted an error of law that vitiated his decision. Furthermore, the High Court argued that the inspector had not properly engaged with the numbers in the model. But the Court of Appeal disagreed: not only had the inspector adequately engaged the model and the numbers in it, but he was entitled to treat the model results as unreliable, and hence did not err in law in failing to reach a conclusion on scheme viability and in basing his decision on other criteria. The Court, contra Sir Michael Harrison, argued that the inspector's decision had not depended on his having accepted the developer's Three Dragons model-based claims.

It may seem extraordinary that these various legal wranglings ultimately came to hang upon not just the status of the viability appraisal model but alternative interpretations of the way in which an individual planning authority — the inspector — had interpreted the model, and the meanings he had invested in it. My argument, however, is that it is more salutary than extraordinary. It is a testament precisely to the inextricable embeddedness of such models in the contemporary landscape of planning for affordable housing provision. Today, they truly do perform the world they are intended conceptually to capture; so accustomed to actualizing the model has the world become that where the model's truths are intractable the world degenerates into a state of directionless equivocation.

As one final illustration of the overall argument, meanwhile, we can usefully consider the ways in which the use of the Three Dragons and similar viability appraisal models has evolved specifically in the context of the financial crisis since 2008, which has of course had significant implications for property development at any number of levels. Two main observations are in order here, both pertaining to questions of adaptation and change: the question of what adapts to what (world to model or model to world?), and what if anything — about and in the model — is changed accordingly.

The first observation is that there has been no sense of a need to depart from the existing approach, in terms either of modelling-as-method, or the conventional structure of the established model type. At all times, in other words, the model remains valid; we can adapt the capricious world to it. As the Three Dragons wrote in a Housing Viability Assessment report for Wealden District Council in August 2009: ‘Although the study was undertaken at a time of considerable fluctuation in market conditions, the residual value approach remains valid and it is considered that the Council should not adjust its policy position on the basis of short term market volatility’.10

Does this mean that nothing about the model changes? No: its structure remains consistent but, as we have already seen, there is always scope for tweaking key adjustable variables such as those originally discovered to ‘provide the key to the financial viability of affordable housing delivery’: house prices and density. Hence, at a time of volatility, attention must be rigorously focused on modifying these adjustable assumptions appropriately.

This brings us to our second critical observation — which is that, crucially, the period of crisis has seen a further input variable rendered adjustable: developer profit levels. As we saw earlier, these were traditionally fixed at 15%. But as the following excerpt from a May 2010 Affordable Housing Viability Study by the City of London — using the GLA's Three Dragons-developed Development Control Toolkit — notes, market volatility has in some instances prompted a rethink:

The Toolkit used is the 2008/9 version. Where feasible, toolkit benchmark values for the City of London have been used. The exceptions are values for interest rates and house prices, which both reflect 2010 values, profit levels for housing developers, which reflect typical values currently used by developers and the higher level of risk inherent in the industry in current market conditions, and build costs for changes of use/conversion.11

In short, higher profit margins were assumed in the model, to reflect a perceived higher level of risk.

How should we read this manoeuvre? Is it a case of the model being adapted to the world? Arguably, yes, since increased risk, on the face of it, is being accommodated. But is this really what is happening? Does property development — envisioned and enacted through the lens of the model — become more risky in this new, ‘risky’ world? No, it does not. The model has always insisted that developers must be rewarded for their entrepreneurship with profit. This has not changed; profit remains paramount, endemic. What has changed is merely the configuration of hypothetical conditions under which the model can envisage ‘viability’. Confronted by an apparently more risky world, the model stands firm, as insistent as ever on developer profitability. It is the world, not the model, which must adapt, specifically in terms of the expectations it harbours — and the realities it eventually obtains — in the realm of affordable housing delivery. And this, perhaps, is the ultimate manifestation of the world ceding to a model that, just a decade previously, had sought to discover the world outside it.


  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. The performativity of economics
  5. Affordable housing in the UK, 1990 to the present: a capsule history
  6. Models and urban worlds-in-making
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

The most immediate aim of this article has been to demonstrate how a particular type of economic model that seeks to assess the viability of certain residential development forms has increasingly operationalized the UK's urban built environment. It has argued that when this type of model was first conceived and developed, its authors were required to discover the urban world as it seemed to be, and to fold that world into their model. The process of discovery did not stop then and there. But from this point on, as use of the model rapidly spread and this use was embedded, if not quite ordained, in planning policy, the model began to format the urban world more than ‘learning’ from it. As a result, the development of affordable housing in the UK today cannot be understood except through the prism of the models that shape it.

In elucidating the nature of this world-making, the article has sought to allude, at the very least, to some of its socioeconomic and political consequences. It has done so in the conviction that Mennicken and Miller (2012) are right to question the ultimate value of scholarship that shows economics being performative without assessing the implications of that performativity. In the present article, perhaps the most obvious set of consequences relates to the normalization of developer profit that sits at the heart of the Three Dragons-type model, and which resists even the apparent threats raised by conditions of financial crisis. This, of course, is the realm of contemporary, capitalist urban political economy. The hegemony of the viability model contributes — not uniquely, of course, but not immaterially either — to putting in place the conditions for ongoing, property-led urbanized capital accumulation (Christophers, 2010).

What remains unclear is how exactly we should conceptualize this ‘relation’, if we can call it that, between the macro-dynamics of urban political economy — indeed of capitalist political economy more widely — and the transformative work of economic models and other forms of economic representation and calculation. Certainly, political-economic scholarship has for too long been silent on the calculative agencies and practices that create and enhance the possibilities for capital accumulation. Meanwhile, work specifically on such agencies, practices and devices does not have a great deal to offer — yet — by way of engagement with the broader social-scientific critique of systemic relations of power: relations including those of capital, assuredly, but also of patriarchy and racism. In the recognition that neither approach is sufficient by itself, this article hopes to make a contribution towards a broader conceptualization — which must always be based on and informed by close empirical investigation — of how they can be put together.

  1. 1
  2. 2 (accessed 1 February 2012).

  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6

    See, for instance, Bournemouth: (accessed 1 May 2012).

  7. 7
  8. 8

    Unless stated otherwise, all information relating to this case is taken from the bundle of pertinent documents collected together by Haringey Council on its website, at (accessed 1 May 2012).

  9. 9

    Unless stated otherwise, all information relating to this case is taken from the various planning inspectorate and legal proceedings, available at (accessed 1 February 2012), (accessed 1 February 2012) and (accessed February 2012). I found the legal analysis of the case by solicitor Martin Goodall at (accessed 1 April 2012) to be very helpful.

  10. 10
  11. 11


  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. The performativity of economics
  5. Affordable housing in the UK, 1990 to the present: a capsule history
  6. Models and urban worlds-in-making
  7. Conclusion
  8. References
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