Financializing affordable housing? For-profit landlords and the marketization of "socially responsible investment" in rental housing

Gertjan Wijburg*, Richard Waldron, Thibault Le Corre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Real estate investment trusts, institutional investors and other global asset managers have gained a controversial reputation for becoming for-profit landlords in the public and private rental housing sector. However, in recent years of increased public attention they have sought to improve their image by presenting themselves as patient investors that are willing to focus on long-term investment rendering steady but stable cash flows with beneficial social outcomes. In this paper, we criticize this discursive reframing of the “patient” or “responsible” corporate landlord. Rather than contributing to affordable and sustainable housing solutions, we argue that financial profit-making remains the prime interest of actors like Ampere Gestion (France), Bartra Capital Property (Ireland) and Vonovia (Germany). In doing so, we make two contributions to ongoing debates on housing financialization and social impact financing. First, by deploying the narrative of corporate responsibility we scrutinize how for-profit landlords seek to create public goodwill and deflect social criticism for their otherwise profit-driven housing operations. Second, by demonstrating that states actively facilitate this emerging sub-market of “socially responsible” housing investment, we show that traditional boundaries between public, affordable and private rental housing are increasingly blurring.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFinance and Space
Publication statusAccepted - 14 Feb 2024

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