Is housing an investment like any other?

By Audrey SomnardEric EngelLex Kleren Switch to French for original article

Property has become a sought-after financial tool for investment funds. A geography professor looks at this issue and its consequences, against the backdrop of the housing crisis.

Reduced supply, prices that have risen steadily in recent years, the rise in interest rates in recent weeks has put a slight halt to this property price madness, but the underlying problem remains the same. Invited to a conference organised by the Etika association, Manuel Aalbers, professor of geography at the University of Leuven, talked about his research into the financialisation of the housing sector (he has published The Financialization of Housing: A political economy approach). His interest in urban planning led him to look at the housing market from a financial perspective: "I've always been interested in housing. I started by studying urban planning and, later, sociology. In the course of these two studies, housing became a subject of interest to me. I started to take an interest in housing issues, poverty, exclusion, other social issues in a way. Then I began to realise that if I wanted to understand them, I didn't just have to understand the social aspect, but I also had to understand the housing market."

Looking at the effects of the housing crisis on disadvantaged populations on the one hand and the interest rate crisis on the other as two separate factors is not the solution, according to the researcher, who proposes a different vision: "If you look at the way housing is studied, there is often a divide. On the one hand, there are the economists. They tend to be very interested in the financial side of things. They know about mortgages and how housing compares to other investments. On the other hand, there are the social scientists, who may be interested in social welfare and the links with poverty. I realised that these two worlds were very far apart. Since I started doing my PhD at the beginning of this century, I've started to bring these two worlds together and look at how housing works as a market."

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