Declining Homeownership in Liberal, English Speaking Countries

Authored by: Richard Ronald , Christian Lennartz

The Routledge Handbook of Housing Policy and Planning

Print publication date:  July  2019
Online publication date:  July  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138188433
eBook ISBN: 9781315642338
Adobe ISBN:


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Rates of homeownership advanced significantly across most advanced economies in the second half of the twentieth century. It not only became the dominant form of housing tenure, but also featured in emerging models of citizenship, welfare, and middle-class identity. Although English speaking, liberal economies such as Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK, and the U.S. have been considered “homeowner societies” and strongly associated with owner-occupation as a cultural norm, widespread homeownership was largely achieved in these countries through political sponsorship and various forms of public subsidies. Among liberal societies, homeownership had a wide-ranging influence on policymaking and thinking more generally, and from the 1980s onward was advanced more aggressively. During this period, a more neoliberal regime of housing finance took hold, facilitating larger and more intensive circulations of capital and debt via an increasingly globalized network of housing and mortgage markets. The Credit Crisis and, ultimately, the Global Financial Crisis critically undermined housing markets and access to owner-occupation, and in recent years a new homeownership regime has begun to emerge. While the tenure remains central to both government and individual aspirations, actual rates of owner-occupation have been in decline. Behind this shift has been an increasing polarization of housing wealth and diminishing affordability and accessibility, especially for younger households. Critically, this chapter explores the rise and ostensible waning of mass homeownership with a focus on the social, economic, and political conditions that have both established its centrality in liberal capitalist economies and resulted in its recent decline.

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