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Rethinking the Risks of Home Ownership

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2009

SUSAN J. SMITH
Affiliation:
Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE email: susanj.smith@durham.ac.uk
BEVERLEY A. SEARLE
Affiliation:
Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE email: beverley.searle@durham.ac.uk
NICOLE COOK
Affiliation:
Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE email: nicole.cook@durham.ac.uk

Abstract

Most debate on home ownership and risk has focused on the management of mortgage debt. But there are other risks for home buyers in settings where housing dominates people's wealth portfolios: where the investment dimensions of property are at a premium; and where housing wealth is, de facto, an asset base for welfare. This article draws from qualitative research with 150 UK mortgage holders to assess the character, extent and possible mitigation of this wider risk regime. The analysis first explores the value home buyers attach to the financial returns on housing. Next we document the extent to which home equity is earmarked and used as a financial buffer. Finally, reflecting on the merits and limitations of this tactic, we conclude by asking whether – in the interests of housing and social policy, as well as with a view to managing the economy – there is any need, scope or appetite for more actively sharing the financial risks and investment gains of housing systems anchored on owner-occupation.

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Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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