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HWPS No.13 | Arundel, R. & Ronald, R. (2018) | The false promise of homeownership: homeowner societies in an era of declining access and rising inequality

In the late twentieth century, homeownership became entrenched in a wider societal project associated with transformations in the economy and increased social inclusion. The ‘promise of homeownership’ asserted the potential of mortgaged owner-occupation in providing all with not just a stable home, but also the chance to accumulate assets and establish economic security.

Underlying these ideologies was the implicit promise that homeownership can be widespread, equalizing and secure. Despite transformations in market conditions, especially since the Global Financial Crisis, such narratives have continued to drive policy approaches and support for marketised housing. Through an investigation of three ‘homeowner societies’ – the US, UK and Australia - the empirical evidence in this paper reveals declining access to homeownership, high levels of housing wealth concentration exacerbating social inequality, and intensifying housing price volatility undermining asset security. The paper contends that the socioeconomic potential of homeownership that has sustained the logic of housing policy for the last half decade may be increasingly recognized as a ‘false promise’ that has justified growing housing commodification, ongoing labour insecurity, and continued state retrenchment wherein housing markets increasingly function as a dimension of growing inequality and insecurity. 

The false promise of homeownership: homeowner societies in an era of declining access and rising inequality