Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 March 2021
Long-term, secure housing of decent quality is fundamental to our wellbeing and essential for every one of us to live a life with dignity. It fulfils the requirement of the basic human need for shelter and for a secure base that provides ontological security, mental and physical health; for a home in which to feel protected and to raise families and nurture individuals, especially children; and for a place that enables a good quality of life within the wider community. It is the base from which we can make friends, go to school, get a job, be a friend, partner and carer, fulfil our potential, and rest. Our home is a source of wideranging emotions for us, from belonging to security. Increasingly, our homes also have a central role in ensuring environmentally sustainable development and meeting the challenges of climate change. However, the fundamental role of housing as a home has been undermined by decades of neoliberal economic and housing policies to become a financialised asset whose primary value is that of an exchange commodity for investors. The real estate–finance ‘industrial complex’ – the banks, real estate equity funds, wealth funds, big accountancy firms, and legal and property professions – has turned homes into wealth extraction funds for the rich. As a result, housing systems across the world are failing to provide affordable, secure homes, resulting in deepening inequalities, and rising levels of housing exclusion, insecurity and poverty.
This housing shock is devastating the lives of increasing numbers of homeless individuals, families and children, and increasingly affects the working and middle classes, Generation Renters, migrants, students and elderly people. And it will continue to affect future generations. Many parents are wondering where their children will get a home when they grow up. Generation Rent is the first generation in over 50 years to experience a rupture in the social contract, without the opportunity their parents had of gaining affordable, secure homes. This is an unprecedented generational and economic inequality.
The financialisation of housing and the current market-dominated approach promises only a future of permanent unaffordability for the ‘locked-out’ generations. Social and economic divisions will worsen as a global ‘rentier class’ of investor landlords and equity funds amass wealth while making homes, cities and towns unaffordable for the average worker.