A Third Housing Sector for Luxembourg – Housing Alternatives Beyond Market and State
Doctoral Research by Céline Zimmer
Luxembourg's housing crisis has preoccupied politicians and residents of the country for years. Due to increased real estate prices, housing is no longer considered affordable for most Luxembourg residents. While global phenomena such as the commodification of housing and the financialisation and globalisation of the market are also causing Luxembourg's housing prices to rise continuously, there are some additional context-specific triggers for the Duchy's housing crisis. One of them is the country's ownership mentality. The idea of individual home ownership as a protection against housing crises has a centuries-old political tradition in Luxembourg. Today, access to home ownership is no longer realistic for many households. The only alternative left is the private rental housing market, as the state has hardly any power to act in the housing market. Only two percent of the housing park is in public hands. The rest of the housing can be attributed to the private housing sector. In an ultra-liberal country like Luxembourg, housing prices are thus determined by purely economic criteria.
This thesis explores the possibilities of a third housing sector that realises housing alternatives beyond the state and the market. Its definition and its necessity derive from the limitations of the two existing sectors: the private sector, in the liberal age, is increasingly becoming a site of negotiation for financially motivated actors who no longer see residential real estate as a shelter for the social practice of housing, but as an abstract economic good. The public housing sector is hardly recognised as a significant player in the housing landscape in Luxembourg and relies on an authoritarian system whose allocation criteria systematically exclude a wide range of citizens, including households from the middle shift for whom prices on the open housing market can also no longer be considered affordable. Moreover, publicly owned housing is highly dependent on the prevailing political climate. The most recent waves of privatisation of public real estate happened less than 30 years ago. The third housing sector should provide self-organised, sustainably decommodified alternatives that understand housing as a common good. Suitable housing models can among others be housing cooperatives, where residents are both owners and tenants. Collective ownership can protect against a return of real estate to the market economy. It allows housing to be negotiated independently of the logics and mechanisms of the free housing market and forms a way for households to emancipate themselves from it through self-help.
In this work, existing alternative housing models are analysed for the cornerstones of the third housing sector (sustainable decommodification, self-management, definition as common goods). The survey "Our New Housing" aims to inform the Luxembourgish population about housing alternatives and at the same time gather insights on whether they could imagine a paradigm shift in the way we live.
Doctoral Student: Céline Zimmer
Thesis Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Florian Hertweck