Isn’t owning your own home a neoliberal ideal?

Why is the UK so obsessed with home ownership?

I’ve yet to hear anyone outline benefits to home ownership that aren’t subjective. So why this desire to make sure people can ‘get on the property ladder’?

Is it because the rental sector is risky? Then subject it to stricter regulation.

Does it provide more stability? Possibly, but that’s a double-edged sword. Buying a property is expensive, selling one is expensive, and obtaining a mortgage leaves you lumped with a huge debt that represents an enormous risk given the threat of serious illness (and myriad other life-changing events) striking at any time.

Actually, isn’t owning your own home a neoliberal ideal more suited to Tory-specific ideology than widely-accepted norm?

Thatcher gave us this aim of a “property-owning democracy” and I’m baffled that the rest of the country appears to have just adopted that mantra. Surely the “property-owning democracy” Thatcher wanted was a means to end the state-funded provision of housing, not some idealistic individual empowerment. What she, and most Tories then and now, wanted was to cut the state’s expenditure on people who were housed by the state.

I don’t think I’m being unfair when I suggest that Tories, or neoliberals specifically, take a (simplified) view that owning stuff is good. If you have assets, that’s good – it adds to your wealth, and wealth is a marker of success in a capitalist system.

But we’re not all neoliberal and so I don’t believe we should all be trumpeting this property-owning democracy as if it’s some sort of utopia. Owning your own property has benefits and disadvantages, and like any big purchase, should be subject to the individuals own desires and not some societal expectation.

Along with going to university, getting married and having kids (although I failed at that one), I’ve long rejected the expectation that you should aim to buy your own home. I see no benefit for me and my lifestyle, and I think this obsession with property ownership is damaging to society as a whole.

The pressure on people to work towards that goal forces them down a path to debt that they might not be comfortable with.

Let’s not forget that the property market has very little to do with actual property either, and much more to do with credit and balance sheets – one of the key reasons for the destructive rise in property prices over several decades.

It’s time we get over home ownership, strengthen the rights of rental tenants and ensure people have the freedom to choose under what terms they want their home.

Update 2014-07-22: Of interest might be this opinion piece calling for Right to Buy to be scrapped.





2 responses to “Isn’t owning your own home a neoliberal ideal?”

  1. Andy Avatar

    Pretty much spot on. What’s needed isn’t another scheme to get people on the property ladder it’s the building of social housing and rent control.

  2. philipjohn Avatar

    I wouldn’t go as far as rent control. Labour’s recent proposals on private rental seem sensible on that.

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