The Uneven Impact on Households
Edited by Ray Forrest and Ngai-Ming Yip
Chapter 12: Towards a Post-Homeowner Society? Homeownership and Economic Insecurity in Japan
Yosuke Hirayama INTRODUCTION With the outbreak of the global financial crisis triggered by the US subprime mortgage meltdown, people’s fortunes relating to homeownership are now being affected by an increasingly insecure economy (Schwartz and Seabrooke, 2009). Over the past two decades, many societies have undergone the sustained expansion of property ownership under volatile economic conditions. This has drawn increasing attention to the significance of the role played by housing economies in shaping social processes (Doling and Ford, 2003; Forrest, 2008; Ronald, 2008). However, wider economic changes do not necessarily produce the same outcome, but are mediated by the indigenous social, economic, political, institutional and policy contexts of particular countries and, thus, create diverging effects on housing and social transformations. The impact of the current financial crisis on property ownership has also differed between different countries. Japan provides an acute case in relation to how economic instability affects homeownership. The housing system in postwar Japan has consistently driven the growth of the owner-occupied housing sector and nurtured the creation of a ‘homeowner society’, where many households have successively ascended the housing ladder towards achieving property ownership (Hirayama, 2007). Immediately after the ‘bubble economy’ collapsed at the beginning of the 1990s, however, Japan entered a noticeably prolonged period of enduring recession with minimal or negative real growth in GDP, rising unemployment rates and reduced real incomes. Although the Japanese economy eventually began to recover in 2002, the economic upturn was not particularly strong and did not serve to improve the household economy....
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