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Anita Blessing and David Mullins

In the wake of the recent global financial crisis, social vulnerability is on the increase in Europe. Yet in the globalising housing markets of European urban cultural and financial centres, there is a growing shortage of affordable rental housing for low- and middleincome groups. Implications are broad, spanning social justice, socio-spatial cohesion and urban competitive advantage (Habitat for Humanity, 2015). As both a public good demanding state involvement and a market commodity, housing is never a pure product of either state policy or competitive market dynamics but rather an ongoing co-production of these forces, wherein respective roles shift over time (Bengtsson, 2001). Moreover, the spatially grounded nature of housing in specific neighbourhoods makes it a key resource for local communities and civil society organisations (CSOs), who may become important actors in contesting both shifts in state policy and competitive market pressures through various forms of political participation and activism. Questions regarding the role of local actors in housing have gained particular salience amongst recent neoliberal reforms that mirror earlier ones in the United States (US). State support for affordable rental housing has been cut back and targeted to encourage the growth of private providers that can access private development capital. Use of state-backed mission-oriented financial institutions has in some cases been curbed, based on claims that this distorts property markets. Affordable rental housing provision has come to involve increasing inter- and intra-organisational complexity, with both missionoriented and commercial actors in key decision-making roles. Reforms promoting localism envision ‘local participatory governance’ as a means of negotiating new housing supply, despite asymmetrical power relationships between housing market actors and tensions between the goals of profit and affordability (Lawson et al., 2015; Swyngedouw, 2005). Within this changed development context, the decisions of banks, pension funds and other mainstream financial institutions that manage local savings wield particular power over access to debt and equity finance.