The global urban housing affordability crisis

Steffen Wetzstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

221 Citations (Scopus)


This critical commentary confronts and explores the – so far under-recognised and under-researched – emergent global crisis of urban housing affordability and affordable housing provision. This crisis results from the fact that housing-related household expenses are rising faster than salary and wage increases in many urban centres around the world; a situation triggered by at least three global post-Global Financial Crisis megatrends of accelerated (re)urbanisation of capital and people, the provision of cheap credit and the rise of intra-society inequality. Reflecting on the recent findings of extensive comparative ethnographic research across Western countries, and analytically approaching housing affordability and affordable housing issues from a broadly understood intersection of political and economic spheres (e.g. issues of state and market, governance and regulation, policy and investment), the paper pursues four key objectives: raising awareness of the crisis, showing its extent and context-specificity but also the severe social as well as problematic spatial implications, linking current developments to key academic debates in housing studies and urban studies, and importantly, developing a research agenda that can help to redress the currently detectable ‘policy–outcome’ gap in policy making by asking fresh and urgent questions from empirical, theoretical and political viewpoints. This intervention ultimately calls for more dedicated and politicised knowledge production towards achieving affordable urban futures for all.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3159-3177
Number of pages19
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


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