Friday, September 10, 2010

Honoring Cambridge's Professor Christine Whitehead

by Stephen Malpezzi, Professor and Lorin and Marjorie Tiefenthaler Distinguished Chair in Real Estate

September 15-17, I'll be joining a hundred other economists and social scientists at a conference at Cambridge University to honor Professor Christine Whitehead, one of Europe's leading lights on a range of housing and urban related topics. Christine is particularly known for her work on housing finance, for research on the effects of land use regulation on housing markets, and for working tirelessly to improve housing policy in the UK and around the globe. In addition to her academic reputation and awards, in recognition of her accomplishments Professor Whitehead has been honored by Queen Elizabeth with the Order of the British Empire.

For much of her career Christine has held simultaneous academic appointments at Cambridge University, and at the London School of Economics; at the former university, she was for a time the colleague of long-time UW Real Estate professor Jim Shilling when he taught at Cambridge; and our own Professor and Department Chair François Ortalo-Magné while he was on the faculty of the London School of Economics.

But where she's been has not been nearly so important as what Christine has accomplished; the thumbnail sketch above only hints at her contributions to research and policy. For example, in 1974 she published a seminal econometric model of the UK housing market. Her research productivity has never flagged; she's still undertaking important work on the effects of the current economic downturn on local public finance, for example. In addition to her institution-building work, keeping the flame of housing and real estate economics alive at Cambridge and LSE, Christine has been one of the driving forces behind the European Network for Housing Research, about which I may share more in another post. She has also been coauthor and mentor to many junior (and for that matter, senior!) faculty and researchers. While physically far removed from us, Professor Whitehead clearly embodies the Wisconsin Tradition of combining rigorous scholarship with a concern for real world problems.

I am proud to count myself as one of Professor Whitehead's many friends, and am honored to join with another good friend, Professor Kyung-Hwan Kim of Sogang University, to present our ongoing work comparing the volatility of housing markets around the world, to Christine and to the conference. Appropriately, the meeting is held under the auspices of the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, which Professor Whitehead founded and headed for many years.

Professor Whitehead will soon be stepping down from her formal academic appointments, but all of us in housing economics and related fields look forward to continuing to benefit from her future thoughts and writings, and her continued participation in venues like ENHR; and of course her continued friendship.

I'll report back in a few weeks on the conference, and some of the research presented there. For now, from Wisconsin, we have no OBE to give, but we say, Christine, thank you and well done.

Photo of Professor Whitehead, flanked by Stephen Malpezzi (right), and by the late Professor Bengt Turner (left). Courtesy of European Network for Housing Research.

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