Until quite recently, housing markets and family property were only of marginal significance to most social scientists. However, following volatile increases in real estate values and the rapid expansion of home ownership globally, the impact of housing markets and the orientation of individuals, households and governments around them has reshaped our world.
The international housing bubble of the early 2000s and the bursting of this bubble in 2007 at first triggered and then intensified the Global Financial Crisis. The impact of changes in the housing market have been deep and broad, and although many commentators have attributed recent events to a market readjustment following an ‘over-exuberance’ in lending and borrowing in the mortgage sector, it has arguably reflected a more fundamental restructuring of late capitalism. This paper argues that recent transformations in housing and family property practices have been part of a larger restructuring of welfare relations in a wide range of societies. Neoliberal changes in welfare regimes have both sustained and been driven by realignments towards housing and real estate, facilitating the reorientation of households, on the one hand, and national governments, on the other, towards family owned housing property as a pillar of both economic and welfare security. While the pre-crisis situation stimulated this transformation, conditions of austerity, continued volatility and prolonged recession have intensified the pressures on families and housing property. These changes and processes, however, have been neither well understood nor adequately investigated, especially in terms of the impact on different types of welfare regime and the complex interactions between individual households, local practices and global economic forces.