Political Economy and Housing in the Twenty first Century From Mobile Homes to Liquid Housing

Dick Bryan & Mike Rafferty

The recent Global Financial Crisis started as a crisis in the US sub-prime mortgage market, and rapidly spread to a wider financial crisis. This article suggests that beyond the crisis, we can now see that households are playing an evolving role as a site of risk absorption. In so doing, households have become a frontier of capital accumulation, not just as producers and consumers, but also as financial traders. Households are increasingly buying financialised products as an ordinary part of daily subsistence – houses, insurance, education, electricity and mobile phones. But at a level beyond the household’s daily reality, these regular purchases are being re-specified as assets, on which asset backed securities are built and then traded. It is in this way that by securitising mortgage debt, finance has given global liquidity to housing. The size of securitised markets on housing as well as household assets and payment streams now dwarfs stock markets. The requirements of this emergent financial citizenship for the house and households extend beyond just honouring payments on a home purchase, it is requiring a culture of financial calculation that becomes absorbed as part of the daily norms and dispositions of social being. The presumption of rights of access to housing, education and health care are being replaced by the acceptance of individual financial participation and calculation. Here, we argue housing is being reconstructed as both the capital base for, and site of, individualised life course risk management.