Yes, there are people who wonder whether home ownership is all it’s cracked up to be. This intriguing point of view diverges substantially from the idea that everyone should aspire to home ownership. What lies behind it?
First there is the idea of harm, which has become part of academic thinking in the disciplines of criminology and health. “Harms” began in an effort to name and discuss issues that were beyond individual control. The term encompasses actions by businesses, governments and economic structures that cause harm. Marc Schelhase, who teaches at King’s College, London, discusses the application of “harms” thinking in political economy, as it applies in the UK housing market.
He argues that giving priority in public policy and funding to support home ownership is a choice, which has consequences (harms) for some people. It is not surprising that people who don’t or can’t own housing are harmed. Somewhat less expected is the position that people who do own housing also experience harm, at least in the context of the housing market in England.
Schelhase, who studies risk management, takes the view that as government policy and funding priority has focussed on home ownership, it has also shifted risk to individuals. Home ownership today is expected to replace the social safety net that was provided by public pensions and social welfare. He also discusses why reliance on home ownership as a personal safety net can create stress (harms) for homeowners, who are the supposed beneficiaries of the public policies. You can read more about these ideas in EconoTimes: Prioritising home ownership hurts everyone – owners as well as renters
Schelhase discusses his thinking more fully in an article published in New Political Economy, where he draws from other disciplines to discuss harms in the context of political economy. He also weaves in credible public data. Here are two examples:
- The UK government’s decent home standard, which rates the physical condition of homes. According to 2020 figures, just 12% of social housing is in disrepair, compared with 18% of ownership housing and 25% of private rental homes.
- The Living Home Standard, which uses five criteria to rate the quality of homes in the UK.1
- Try this post for more about the Living Home Standard: One Housing Standard For All?