Accepted Paper:

Unconventional ownership strategies: when your home is not a house  

Author:

Laurie Daffe (Catholic University of Louvain)

Paper short abstract:

In this communication, we will show that the current economic context doesn’t abate people’s wish to acquire a place of their own. Unconventional and non-institutional home strategies are created as valid and viable solutions to the housing crisis, as houseboats ownership in Belgium illustrates.

Paper long abstract:

In this communication based on an ethnographic work conducted with private houseboats inhabitants of public fluvial areas in Belgium, we will show that the current economic context doesn't abate people's wish to acquire a place of their own. Even more, unconventional and non-institutional home strategies are created as valid and viable solutions to the housing crisis.

First of all, these inhabitants often speak about the autonomy and the freedom they get by being the owner of a houseboat. Ashore, as tenants or dependent on housing benefits and mortgages, would they have had the opportunities that the boat offers (e.g. a garden, a central location of their choice, the liberty to organize their home)?

This is even more true considering that banks are never part of the equation. Indeed, as these houseboats are not real estate, mortgages are not an option. For their acquisition, future fluvial inhabitants rather rely on their own resources (savings, inheritance, familial loan…). The sum of money needed is often paid in cash and in one go to the former owner. When it comes to renovation, other alternatives (DIY, support of friends and relatives, etc.) are relied upon and time is often the best ally: the boats are always under work, as the money comes and go.

As a consequence, owning a boat implies social and familial configurations that are particularly telling of new ways of relating to others, envisioning one's professional choices and leaving a legacy for one's children.

Panel P035
Home loss: house-ownership and credit in the austerity regime