University of Tasmania
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Families' experiences of home in urban Australia : commodification, connection and care

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thesis
posted on 2023-05-28, 09:08 authored by Gorter, TE
The political economy of housing in Australia has shifted; the family home is increasingly viewed as an asset and an investment necessary to secure the family's future welfare. Individuals, and the households they comprise, are positioned as investor subjects responsible for managing a range of social and financial risks through the housing market. There is a lack of empirical research into the ways households with dependent children negotiate this, alongside other values associated with homemaking and childrearing. In Melbourne, Australia's second largest city, house prices have increased rapidly since 2000, with relatively slow growth in incomes; it has become a challenging place for families with young children to establish a home. I interviewed forty households with dependent children, both owner occupiers and renters, to understand how they negotiated their housing market positions and how this affected their experience of 'home'. The semi-structured interviews incorporated photo elicitation to provide deeper insight into the cultural and emotional meanings of home, and the homemaking practices of these families. The thesis begins by describing shifts in the political economy whereby housing could be regarded as increasingly 'risky'. I advance an argument for examining the effects of these changes at a household-level. I then introduce the empirical research, firstly exploring the participants' subjective experiences of housing in/security with reference to the role of tenure, problematising a binary understanding of rental and home ownership. I characterise the housing risk positions of the research participants as secure home owners, relatively secure home owners, precarious home owners, rentvestors, secure renters or entrenched renters. These categories emphasise the contingent nature of these risk positions, in terms of life course stage, housing market context, relationship status, and job security. I then consider participants' engagement with the housing market, financial institutions and the asset-based welfare system, finding inconsistencies in their adoption of investor subjectivity. Next, I consider the influence of intergenerational inheritance, both financial and cultural, on the participants' housing positions. Finally, I consider the entanglement of house, home and family life, focusing on homemaking practices in connection with locating the home, the material dwelling itself, and housing and relationships of care. My research demonstrates the ways in which the micro-practices of home are fundamental to understanding the financialisation of housing. It also provides new knowledge of households as agents in the political economy of housing.

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