: Lessons from Southern Europe on a nuanced understanding of housing affordability

Authors: Georgia Alexandri*,
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: Housig financialisation, affordability, Southern Europe
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The financial and pandemic crisis that trouble Southern Europe have irreversibly re-shaped the relation to home. The post WWII dream of “homeowning”, transformed into the housing repossession nightmare of the 2008 crisis. Austerity and labour causalisation are now translated into increasing tenancy rates pinpointing the illusion of homeownership, even for middle-classes. Housing needs are captured by global corporate landlords active in private rental housing. Real Estate Investment Trusts and Servicers are mainly interested in maintaining perpetual rent flows. Although local rent regulations (eg in Barcelona) challenge profitability, the market created upon housing necessities appears more promising. This paper will drive attention to the way housing affordability is discussed, perceived, and promoted by real estate actors and related social policies in Southern Europe, by focusing on the Spanish case. It is based on 50 interviews conducted for an ongoing project on housing transformations in Spain and in Greece (H2020 MSCA). While ongoing the pandemic housing demand appears fortified, supply forces engage with new activities of economic expansion like a built-to-rent or green renovations. While affordability seems essential for new promotions and social policies, it is also used to dislodge attention from the various forms of displacements materialised through financial processes of unhoming. By focusing on impermeable house price mechanisms, housing is placed within the framework of a rigid political economy that invites tenants to accept landlords’ logics on (capturing monopoly) rents, thus, to sustain displacements with apatheia. Then the essence of housing affordability may be more ambiguous than as presented.

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