The 19th-Century Origins and 20th-Century Political Career of the Idea of Homeownership in OECD Countries

Friday, July 14, 2017
Carnegie Room (University of Glasgow)
Sebastian Kohl , Sociology, Uppsala University
Homeownership and financial liberalization policies were one factor behind rising mortgage and homeownership levels in many countries before 2008. High homeownership countries were most affected by the Great Recession. This paper looks into the causes of homeownership policies by tracing the political idea of homeownership across time and countries in the OECD world. It thus enriches the party manifesto project with housing position variables and additional historical manifestos. The idea of homeownership originated as a conservative reaction to the social question in the 19th-century and was meant to cure social ills by spreading owner-occupation of, at that time, single-family houses across the population. In the 20th century, this idea entered political parties when national housing policies became first formulated or when traditional social housing provision ran into problems in the 1970s. The findings are: conservative parties defended homeownership throughout the period, while countries differ with regard to the extent that left-wing parties have made the homeownership idea their own: in Anglo-Saxon countries left-wing parties usually favored the expansion of homeownership. Many Scandinavian social democrats were also favorable to private or cooperative ownership because it prevented exploitation through rental landlords. In German-speaking countries, social democrats, representing the urban working classes, defended municipal or state support of rental housing. Countries with Catholic parties initiated special homeownership-supporting policies and all conservative fascist regimes supported family-ownership of houses. The paper explains differences in homeownership position by the left-right scale of parties, urbanization and previous homeownership levels, using unique historical homeownership and party data.
  • Kohl - Homeownership ideologies CES.pdf (591.2 kB)