How not to be an egalitarian: the politics of homeownership and property-owning democracy

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This paper offers a critical evaluation of the narrative of ‘property-owning
democracy’ (POD) in contemporary housing policy and in the political cultures
of the UK and the USA. It describes and contrasts two competing
interpretations of POD. The dominant interpretation permeates the politics of
housing in Britain and the USA. It is based on the assumption that
homeownership creates virtuous and independent citizens, is strongly
associated with the conservative ideal of the small state, and is firmly
embedded in both policy and the accepted terms of political debate.

In contrast to this, there is a less dominant, egalitarian interpretation of POD,
which seeks to promote a view of property and citizenship based more on
solidarity and interdependence. This interpretation of POD tends to view
property more broadly, including smaller savings and even extending to mass
ownership in industry. But it also typically neglects the political reality of POD
as a homeownership ideology and the anti-welfare dynamic it has created. This
paper therefore argues that the egalitarian (re)interpretation of POD is
politically and sociologically naıve, and that it is offers an untenable counter-narrative to the politics of welfare retrenchment. A more egalitarian housing
policy needs to start from a different place.

Keywords: property; democracy; citizenship; independence; homeownership


Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Housing Policy
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Jan 2016


  • property, democracy, citizenship, independence, homeownership