Housing Conference Examines Global and Local Impact of Credit Crunch

The far-reaching impact of the global credit crunch was discussed by academics and experts at the recent “Housing Assets, Housing People” conference at the University of Glasgow. The four-day event was hosted by the International Sociological Association’s Research Committee 43—a group of academics from various disciplines who study aspects of housing—as well as the University of Glasgow.

Glasgow, SCOTLAND–The far-reaching impact of the global credit crunch was discussed by academics and experts at the recent “Housing Assets, Housing People” conference at the University of Glasgow. The four-day event was hosted by the International Sociological Association’s Research Committee 43—a group of academics from various disciplines who study aspects of housing—as well as the University of Glasgow.

“Our goal was to examine community and regional as well as national topics, including the policy ramifications, as we exchanged ideas,” says Kenneth Gibb, head of the Department of Urban Studies at the University of Glasgow, and the chair of the conference. “We had lots of papers that showed very specific perspectives of damage that was done and those that expanded it to a wider perspective.”

Though Britain doesn’t differentiate between apartments and homes the same way that America does, according to Gibb, multifamily housing was a significant topic in most discussions.

“In many of the papers, they looked at flats and what you would call multifamily units,” says Gibb. “The growth of residential apartments and speculative landlords have exacerbated the boom and the bust—they over supplied these properties and they were never let.”

He pointed to a presentation by Yosuke Hirayama of Japan’s Kobe University, who spoke about the additional trauma that the global financial crisis caused to Japan, after its stagnation in the 1990s. Hirayama discussed the country’s current unprecedented levels of homelessness that have resulted from the housing bust. At the same time that there has been massive condominiums built, there are many low-value properties that are struggling.

Dan Immergluck, of the Georgia Institute of Technology, delved further, looking not only at the roots of the subprime crisis and the warning signs that were available, but specifically at how the neighborhoods of Atlanta, GA had been affected by it—as well as the aftershocks caused by the huge number of foreclosures throughout the city.

The conference’s discussions also looked at how other regions such as Australia, New Zealand and Germany have been less impacted by the bust. The level of ownership that those countries’ governments have in their banking systems is seen as a significant reason the impact was not as strong there.

Gibb stressed that the goal of the conference was to seek the causes of the housing crisis, more than just discussing the symptoms. To that end, Chris Hamnett of Kings’ College in London, looked at how mortgage lenders in the United Kingdom loosened their lending policies over the years leading up to the crisis. He emphasized tighter control of lending as crucial for avoiding this kind of laxity in the future.

The breakout sessions covered a range of topics such as gentrification, the regeneration of neighborhoods, sustainability, and social theories behind the crisis. This is the first conference sponsored by the housing-focused Research Committee 43 since 2004’s conference in Toronto.

The selection of Glasgow as the site of the conference is an appropriate choice, according to Gibb, due to its heritage as an industrial area that has been able to remake itself into a culturally vibrant city. Reinvention will be a key concern for many of the neighborhoods most affected by the crisis in the months ahead.

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