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Title:The homeownership complex: The role of housing stakeholders in the remaking of the U.S. housing market
Author(s):Youngling, Elizabeth L.
Director of Research:Orta, Andrew
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Orta, Andrew
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Dominguez, Virginia R.; Greenberg, Jessica; Ashton , Philip
Department / Program:Anthropology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):homeownership, markets, value, inequality, United States
Abstract:This dissertation focuses on the making of the U.S. housing market. In the United States, a flourishing housing market depends upon and reproduces the “American dream” of homeownership. Homeownership is a multivalent institution. It can provide shelter, be a mechanism of wealth accumulation, a measure of economic achievement, a driver of local, national, and global economies, a status symbol, an American dream. But as the U.S. mortgage crisis and global recession that racked economies, markets, and households a decade ago revealed, ever-increasing homeownership also creates financial instability and perpetuates inequality. I argue that homeownership’s position as a source of social value and economic growth is precarious; it requires the work of multiple actors and agencies to be produced, naturalized, and sustained. I use a historically grounded, mesoscale ethnography of differently positioned housing stakeholders active in the post-crisis housing market recovery in Chicago, Illinois to understand how homeownership’s hegemony endures in spite of its pitfalls. Attention to the interstitial actions that knit together the gaps between global financial markets, national political agendas, local real estate markets, and individual household needs allows me to zero in on a key driver of the housing market’s cycles of booms, busts, and recoveries: the homeownership complex. The homeownership complex is a nexus of actors and agencies that support and perpetuate homeownership as a cultural ideal and an economic good. This dissertation includes an analysis of the complex’s constitutive parts, including government housing agencies, mortgage lending and real estate professionals; real estate investors, policymakers, and not-for-profit organizations that focus on meeting community housing needs. The participants of the homeownership complex and the people, properties, and capital they bring together form a kind of housing value chain. At each phase in a property’s movement from one link in the chain to another, value can be imbued and extracted, but that value is neither universally visible nor accessible. Through their participation in the U.S. homeownership complex, these diverse stakeholders make a housing market that sustains and naturalizes inequality rather than ameliorates it. Yet they experience “the market” that they help construct as self-perpetuating force over which they exercise little control. Because a homeownership-driven housing market offers opportunities to generate value for those stakeholders with the financial and social capital to access it, they help perpetuate the idea that the institution of homeownership is a universal social and economic good even after the ravages of the U.S. mortgage crisis of 2007-2009. Through an ethnographic analysis of the actors and agencies in the homeownership complex, this dissertation illuminates the work behind homeownership’s framing as a universal and enduring “American dream” and pushes for the U.S. housing market’s reconfiguration.
Issue Date:2018-04-18
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Elizabeth L. Youngling
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-04
Date Deposited:2018-05

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