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From housing wealth to mortgage debt: the really big trade off driving Britain's asset-shaped welfare state

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Publication details

JournalSocial Policy and Society
DatePublished - Jan 2012
Issue number1
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)105-116
Original languageEnglish


Housing has been unjustifiably neglected in comparative welfare state research. The banking crisis of 2007–08, however, revealed how important housing, especially home ownership and the institutional structures of the mortgage market, has become to welfare state change. Securitisation of mortgages created a new circuit of global capital, while national mortgage markets became the conduit through which home owners were connected to this wave of globally sourced capital. In the UK, equity stored in owner-occupied property became much more fungible because of the very open/liberal mortgage market. As a result home owners began to ‘bank’ on their homes using it not only for consumption but increasingly as a financial safety net, a cushion against adversity and a means for securing access to privately supplied services and supporting their family's welfare needs across the life-course. This welfare state change – a move towards asset-based welfare – was historically and today remains underpinned by the emergence of the UK as a home-owning society.

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