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Sebastian Kohl

Research Findings

Promises and lost illusions of the political homeownership dream

October 24, 2018

The political homeownership ideal is the promise to create more equal and stable societies as well as to solve housing market problems by making more people homeowners, largely through the extension of mortgage credit to homebuyers. It also promises to fill the gap left by declining public housing and infrastructure investments and retrenching welfare states.

The British sociologist Colin Crouch considers the political homeownership ideal to be part of a neoliberal “unacknowledged policy regime”. He calls this, “privatized Keynesianism” which he sees as gaining the upper hand in most Western countries since the 1980s.

In a recent study, I trace the rise of the homeownership ideal in nineteen Western countries, from its origins as a conservative answer to the nineteenth-century upheavals of industrialization and urbanization, to the present day.

Based on extensive analysis of election manifestos, I find that virtually all conservative parties in the countries I examined have defended the ideal of homeownership, and supported the expansion of mortgage lending rather than public welfare programs. However, there are large differences on the political left, especially before the 1980s.

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