Coming To Grips With The Financialization Of Housing

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Mappamondo luminos photo by DeLo 99 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
The financialization of housing is an issue that spans the globe and calls for a global response.

Since the 2008 mortgage crisis, more people have become aware of the financialization of housing. Housing has shifted from being a place where you live to become partially or entirely an investment commodity.

At times, the consequences of financialization can seem overwhelming. Housing prices and rents have been rising faster than incomes. People experience these effects differently. Seniors are losing their homes because their incomes aren’t enough to cover their housing costs. Parents are skimping on food to keep a roof over the heads of their families. Young people who want to buy a home can’t afford mortgage payments — even when their parents can help them with a down payment. Homelessness is growing.

A particularly trying aspect of the housing crisis is that public policies and programs are contributing to it. Canada, for example, gives preferential tax treatment to Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) that have invested heavily in private rental housing. REIT shareholders have profited handsomely from these investments.

The tenants in REIT buildings haven’t fared so well: evictions and rent increases are on the rise. And the housing market is becoming much more expensive, with fewer and fewer homes offered at rents that are affordable to people with modest incomes.

The policies and programs that support the financialization of housing have been around for a while. Now, as homelessness grows and the housing crisis extends into the middle class, government’s popularity ratings are starting to dip.

Governments and policy makers are thinking about how to bring the financialization of housing under control to mitigate the housing crisis. That’s where a resource published by THE SHIFT can be useful.

THE SHIFT was created to provide a space for people around the world to learn about the right to adequate housing and to learn how other people are tackling housing challenges where they live.

The SHIFT Directives are a list of policies and programs that government decision makers could implement to mitigate the financialization of housing. The directives are based on experiences of housing financialization from around the world. All are rooted in the UN’s guidance on the right to adequate housing.

As well as financialization, THE SHIFT has resources about homeless encampments and right to home1.

Policy makers might look at these tools and think, “This will never fly here.” The directives and other work by THE SHIFT offer ideas rather than prescriptions. Even if they don’t get implemented immediately, they are a way to begin to see how policies and programs could support adequate housing for everyone2.

Read more at THE SHIFT: The Shift Directives


  1. Try: The Shift: Committing To Housing As Shelter For All, Not Investment Opportunity
  2. For additional resources about the financialization of housing, try: Financialization Of Housing In Canada Exposed