New special issue out

If you are looking for some brand-new housing research to read amidst the current corona situation, I have a new special issue out in the International Journal of Housing Policy, co-edited with Cody Hochstenbach (University of Amsterdam) and Chris Lennartz (PBL Nederlands). It deals with the rise of what we call multiple property ownership, i.e. households that own additional property besides their primary home. While this seems to be of growing relevance in many countries, little systematic research on it is available.

The issue includes a longer introductory piece by Cody, Chris and me on the rationale and the main concepts mobilized. We then have five papers that cover different dimensions of multiple property ownership in varying international contexts. We also have a concluding commentary by Peter Kemp, who reflects on the contributions and the relevance of multiple property ownerhip in the current moment. Below are all paper abstracts and the links to the texts on the journal website.

Multiple property ownership in times of late homeownership:
a new conceptual vocabulary
Justin Kadi,Cody Hochstenbach & Christian Lennartz

The number of individuals and households that own an additional property beyond their primary home is on the rise in several countries. However, recent studies have been inconsistent in describing such properties, referring, for instance, to the return of private small-scale landlordism, the proliferation of second homes, or the significance of dwellings that are held as investment properties. Rarely are these disparate issues considered together, either theoretically or empirically. This special issue mobilises the concept of multiple property ownership (MPO) to provide a more integrated analysis. In this introduction to the special issue we propose multiple property ownership as a conceptual banner that includes second homes, buy-to-let properties, holiday rentals, intergenerational support properties and safe deposit box properties. While these properties may differ considerably in terms of purpose and use, we argue that they are part of a broader proliferation of property wealth accumulation at the household level. Considering multiple properties together can motivate a deeper understanding of property wealth concentration and changing property relations in the post-crisis context. We introduce a typology of multiple property ownership, discuss the consumption and investment value of different property types, and outline some drivers of multiple property ownership, before considering implications for housing research. We end with a brief discussion of the five articles in this special issue and how they deepen current understanding of multiple property ownership.

Secondary property ownership in Europe: contributing to asset-based welfare strategies and the ‘really big trade-off
Barend Wind, Caroline Dewilde & John Doling

This paper examines the role of secondary property ownership (SPO) in Europe (EU). Focusing predominantly on residential properties used as rental-investments, it explores their role in the political economy of housing and welfare, contributing to respectively newer and older literatures about housing wealth and asset-based welfare and the ‘really big trade-off’ between outright homeownership and generous pensions. Both have hitherto largely been viewed as related to ownership of the primary residence. The empirical part of this paper is based on the Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS), carried out by the European Central Bank in 2014, and providing information about property ownership by samples of households in 20 member states of the EU. The results show that the total wealth held in the form of SPO is considerable while also varying considerably from country to country. SPO held as an investment in the form of landlordism is most prevalent in countries characterised as corporatist-conservative or liberal welfare regimes. In the corporatist-conservative countries, SPO can be seen as a since long established proactive asset-based welfare strategy that compensates for the limitations of their fragmented pension systems, especially for the self-employed. In liberal welfare states, the recent upswing of buy-to-let landlordism is a manifestation of the concentration of housing wealth and limited access to homeownership for starters, which makes SPO an ever more attractive investment.

Second homes in the city and the country: a reappraisal of vacation homes in the twenty-first century
Meaghan Stiman

In the United States and across Europe, research on second—and multiple—homeownership for vacation and leisure use has traditionally analysed the in-migration of urban residents into rural locales. Indeed, this line of inquiry has been warranted for many years because of the high concentration of urban dwellers who have sought second homes in natural amenity-rich rural destinations. However, drawing on interviews with 61 second homeowners who purchased property for vacation or leisure use, this paper unravels an empirical puzzle. While second homeownership has often been found to be an urban-to-rural phenomenon, this analysis uncovers a preponderance of second homeowners who purchase secondary residences in urban locales, as well as suburbanites who purchase secondary residences in either rural or urban destinations. To makes sense of these findings, I suggest that empirical and theoretical attention to second homeownership requires a twenty-first century reappraisal to account for both the heterogeneity of second homeownership as well as the larger socio-economic conditions under which it materialises.

Inside the world of middle-class Hong Kong transnational property investors: ‘5980 miles to my second home’
Hang Kei Ho

Academic and popular debates around the movement of financial capital tied to the residential housing market in global cities such as London, tend to focus on the super-rich, wealth management and pension funds. While such debates acknowledge that these large scale capital flows influence socioeconomic structures of the destination cities, relatively little is known about how middle-class money flows across national and city boundaries, and between key intermediaries. This article aims to address these empirical and conceptual lacunae by examining the practices of middle-class Hong Kong investors, many of whom have been investing in properties worldwide since the early 1990s. Using ethnographic research and interviews carried out in Hong Kong and the UK, this article sheds light on the investment activity of two groups of middle-class investors: the wealthy middle-class and the aspiring middle-class. The article shows how a wealthy city-state like Hong Kong, with a laissez-faire economy and established international real estate sector, has enabled the outflow of capital to the global housing market. The article also highlights the ability of ethnographic studies to help us look inside processes of transnational housing investment.

The top tail of the property wealth distribution and the production of the residential environment
Antoine Paccoud

This article investigates the ways in which the structure of the private ownership of property affects the operation of land and housing markets. It draws on detailed Land Registry data to identify the types of actors found at the top of the property wealth distribution in Dudelange, Luxembourg, and to gauge their respective influence on the production of the residential environment. While the top tail is made up of property developers, landowners and super-landlords, an analysis of the planning and land assembly processes for six large scale residential developments in the city since the 1970s shows that the production of housing is driven by a small group of tightly interconnected private landowners and property developers. The level of property wealth concentration in a given territory is thus not innocuous – it affects the production of the residential environment, especially when multiple property ownership is interlinked with the concentrated control over residential land. The study complements discussions on the relation between property, wealth and the production of housing that focus on homeowners, small-scale private landlords and the super-rich (on the consumption side) and, on the production side, on selected actors such as financialised property developers and public landowners.

The demand-side determinants of multiple property ownership in Spain
José Manuel Torrado, Ricardo Duque-Calvache & Isabel Palomares-Linares

Home ownership is the usual form of tenancy in Spain and is particularly widespread across all social classes for different historical and cultural reasons. In this context, multiple property ownership (MPO) is not limited to the wealthy. It takes on different forms that have different explanations. Statistics reveal the existence of millions of second homes, private rented properties and a vast number of vacant houses, all of which are illustrative of a complex residential environment. This paper aims to quantify and analyse the types of multiple property in Spain from the demand side, focusing on individual and household owners, drawing on a variety of quantitative data sources. On the aggregate level, the number and type of multiple properties varies depending on geographical factors (coast versus inland; rural versus urban) and the characteristics of the buildings. On the micro level, we have used individual variables to model the demand-side determinants of single property and MPO. This reveals that the relevant variables are not the same for the two groups. MPO in Spain is not only linked to socioeconomic status and savings capacity, pointing to the need for more differentiated explanations.

Commentary on multiple property ownership
Peter A. Kemp

In many of the advanced economies there has been a notable growth of investment in residential properties by individual owners and corporate landlords since the Global Financial Crisis. This trend has in turn led to a rapidly growing volume of research on the ownership of residential property. This special issue of the International Journal of Housing Policy on multiple property ownership (MPO) is therefore very welcome and makes an important contribution to the literature on the topic. In this brief commentary, I explore the concept of multiple property ownership and then consider some of the difficulties of researching the people and organisations that own residential property.