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Housing market (in)stability and social rented housing: comparing Austria and Ireland during the global financial crisis

Abstract

Since the 1970s the prevalence and duration of housing market booms has increased in developed countries as has the busts which followed them. These developments and particularly their occurrence in a large number of countries simultaneously were key contributors to the global financial crisis of 2008. The literature on this crisis has focused primarily on the role of mortgage markets and home-ownership in driving housing booms and busts and also on the countries which have experienced the strongest busts, particularly in the English-speaking world. Despite the large number of social rented dwellings in Western Europe, the role of this sector has been largely neglected in the literature as has developments in countries unaffected by the crisis. This article aims to address these omissions by examining the interaction of social housing and the housing market in Ireland, which experienced a spectacular housing market boom in the 1990s, and bust in the 2000s and Austria which has a long tradition of housing market stability. It argues that social housing played an important but contrasting role shaping the housing market dynamics in these two countries. In Ireland social housing was pro-cyclical—it accelerated the housing market boom and intensified the bust; whereas Austrian social housing had a counter cyclical impact on the housing market and thereby helped to promote price stability. These outcomes were partially reflected in the different social housing policy regimes in use in these countries—Austria represents a ‘unitary’ and Ireland a ‘dualist’ housing regime in Kemeny’s (From public housing to the social market: rental policy strategies in comparative perspective, Routledge, London, 1995) typology. In addition, the sources of finance for social housing and the demand-side or supply-side orientation of subsidies were also important drivers of these contrasting outcomes.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We would like to acknowledge the contribution of Alexis Mundt of the IIBW (Institute for Real Estate, Construction and Housing Ltd, Vienna) in collecting and collating data on social housing funding and output in Austria.

  2. 2.

    LPHAs are organisation which provide affordable housing and are regulated by a particular piece of government legislation. There are activities are strictly limited to the provision of affordable housing, the level of profits is capped at 2% and they are regulated by local government.

  3. 3.

    This system was established in the late 1980s and replaced direct local government borrowing to fund housing provision (Norris 2016). In the wake of the global financial crisis in 2010 borrowing to fund social housing was reintroduced. However this reform has only begun to take effect in practice since 2015.

  4. 4.

    Social housing rents are income related in Ireland, normally set at 15% of tenants’ income.

  5. 5.

    Tenant contributions vary considerably, from 0% to as much as 20%. In practice this cost is often covered via family support.

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Correspondence to Michelle Norris.

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Norris, M., Byrne, M. Housing market (in)stability and social rented housing: comparing Austria and Ireland during the global financial crisis. J Hous and the Built Environ 33, 227–245 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10901-018-9595-4

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Keywords

  • Social housing
  • Financhialization
  • Housing market booms
  • Housing regimes