Home ownership brings many benefits to the individual and their family, and it promotes a variety of social goals. However, in many western countries today buying a home has become unaffordable.
One of the reasons why home ownership is increasingly more difficult to achieve is that the concept of home has been reduced to that of ‘house’, an exchangeable investment the value of which is no different from any other object. The home is in many economies a financial asset, that can be used as a security, that is subject to repossession, and is bought by professional landlords that capitalise on rent and the increased value of their investment. The very practice of mortgaging using the land itself as a security has transformed houses to essentially another financial asset like any other: disposable for securing risky investments, and subject to repossession.
In this paper Dr Laura Lo Coco suggests that the transition of the concept of home as a place where the individual develops the self, to a mere ‘house’, that is a mere object that can be exchanged and the value of which is essentially financial, is facilitated by the association of home ownership with the archetypical property right.
The idea of home has informed much of the discussion on refugees and collective self-determination, and the normative importance of this safe space has been the focus of theories of global justice. However, the private dimension of ‘home’ although present and central to our private lives, has not received sufficient attention in the debate about property rights. Although the classic theories of property recognise the importance of ownership for the development of the self, this aspect is rarely foundational of rights to private property, which have mainly been advanced as the protection of a space of non-interference.
Τhe suggestion in this paper is that to discover once more the concept of home, and place it at the centre of the practice of home ownership, we should look away from the classic theory of property rights. We should instead look at the recent debate on territorial rights for inspiration. Territorial rights theories have focused on the idea of attachment, that indicates precisely the importance of space for the fundamental non-economic interests of the person. Despite their significant differences, the theories of territorial rights have placed at the centre of their analysis the intuition that rights in land are essentially different from ownership, and they are normatively important because they protect some fundamental interest that cannot be meaningfully reduced to the land’s economic value, such as self-determination and individuals’ faculty to develop and pursue self-directed life-plans.
* Analysis by
Dr Laura Lo Coco, Senior Lecturer, University of Hertfordshire
ENA Centre for Political Theory | Co-ordinator: Yiannis Kouris