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WPS No.55 | Howard, A., Hochstenbach, C. & Ronald, R. (2021) | Rental sector liberalization and the housing outcomes for young urban adults

This paper explores the drivers and housing outcomes of rental sector liberalization in Amsterdam for young adults. It looks at differences between socio-economic and demographic groups, as well as how young adults compare to older generations.

Young adults increasingly rely on more precarious and costly rental housing, particularly in major cities. This problem is often defined in terms of the decline in homeownership rates amongst younger cohorts, with little attention paid to the roles of other tenures. While most studies focus on Anglophone contexts with deeply liberalized housing sectors, Amsterdam (the Netherlands) has a more regulated housing system with rent regulated homes still constituting the largest sector in the city. However the increasing influence of market-liberal logic in policy has led to substantial growth of liberalized rental housing.

Where this growth was justified as a way to fill the middle segment, our findings reveal that affluent young households make up the biggest share and the largest growth in the sector, whilst less affluent households struggle to gain access. Drawing on the city of Amsterdam survey data from 2005-2019, our analysis considers how recent policy and housing market shifts, accumulating in an expansion of the liberalized rental segment, have generated and shaped housing inequalities for young adults. We argue that ‘generation rent’ is not a one-size-fits-all outcome of market-liberal agendas, but is mediated and shaped on a city scale, in part through rental market restructuring.