The WIsDHoM project (Wealth inequalities and the dynamics of housing market. Interpreting real-estate market-based regime of spatial inequalities) is a research programme conducted jointly by UMR Géographie-cités (Paris), UMR ESPACE (Avignon) and Centre Max Weber (Lyon).
WIsDHoM analyzes growing socio-economic inequalities induced by property prices inflation. Housing prices have increased faster than the income of buyers in most of post-industrial city-regions. Real estate has become a major driver of these inequalities because the flows of household real estate investments are instrumental to the dynamics of asset capitalization. The team applies under the PRC instrument (CES 41, challenge B8, axe 2) and the project addresses inequalities of income and assets, combining a multidisciplinary approach (geography, planning, history, political sciences, economics) to analyze how property markets reinforces spatial and wealth inequalities. The WIsDHoM project structures a multidisciplinary research group to investigate the systemic dimension of inequalities induced by the dynamics of French housing markets and their political and financial context since the end of the 1990s.
In French metropolitan areas, the most salient dynamics for the last two decades have been a continuous and steep increase in property prices and a steady increase of homeownership, analyzed as a « resilient bubble » (Timbeau, 2013), and therefore described as a new price regime (Tutin, 2013b). The following paradox has emerged in the post-financial crisis era: while the evolution of both price to income ratio (i.e. affordability index) and rent to price ratio should discourage homebuyers and investors in metropolitan areas, housing markets have remained active and the price trend did not reverse. We assume this situation is linked to many parameters, from the national level (financial and credit affordability conditions, pro-homeownership policies, shift toward asset-based welfare) to the local level (pro-market housing policies, spatial differentiation of housing prices).
Our research question stems from this analysis: to what extent contemporary social inequality is shaped by one’s relationship to housing markets? We will examine it through three overlapping dimensions: urban policies to promote the production of residential real estate; local access and affordability to participate in that market; specific trajectories of wealth accumulated through home ownership – and its attendant effects on urban policies.
The WIsDHoM project aims to analyze the relationships between local housing prices dynamics, inequalities and housing policies. The housing prices volatiliy is dependent upon local features. Price volatility might influence the social sorting of homebuyers, the appreciation/depreciation of property values, and the real estate strategies of both private and public local actors. In turn, such parameters impact local housing markets.
This socio- spatial feedback loop is our key concern. In order to encompass the variegated socio-spatial contexts, we will draw on three case studies at three different levels of the urban hierarchy: Paris, Lyon and Avignon. A multiscalar approach, going back and forth between State policies, local governments’ policies and households’ strategies, will allow for an empirically grounded approach. The scientific program is divided up in three work packages:
- Characterization of the local market assemblages and housing provision policies in each of our three case studies ;
- The spatial analysis of the unequal structure of affordability using disaggregated spatial datasets (real estate transactions, property taxes, mortgages, land register) ;
- An assessment of financial accumulation or vulnerability and its effects on local market assemblages through a survey of households’ strategies (nimby, bimby, housing improvement...).
Our research team is made of leading experts of every database we will use (land registry, real estate sales, tax databases, credit databases), and of specialists of field surveys, which will allow an integrated approach that has never been achieved so far.