Europe: Private Rental Housing

Much of the discussion of housing in Australian begins with the observation that both the public and private rental sectors are small relative to home ownership and home purchase. While this observation reflects the reality of Australian housing, it is too easy to assume that the Australian situation is somehow abnormal. Australia's tenure structure does not vary greatly from parts of Europe. For example, just under 20 per cent of households in Australia are private tenants (DSS 1996), this percentage is approximately equal to Austria, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, France and Sweden. Only Germany, with 43 per cent of households renting privately, Switzerland with 66 per cent and Belgium with 28 per cent, are appreciably greater. There are, of course, significant differences with some other nations. For example, as a proportion of the total housing stock private rental housing is two, and possibly three, times greater in Australia than in the United Kingdom. Somewhat alarmingly, Australia's policies for private rental housing appear to be more logical and more effective than those pursued by a number of European nations! This paper compares and contrasts private rental housing in Australia with Europe. In large part it draws on the work of McCrone and Stephens (1995) to provide a comparative assessment of housing policies and programs. In particular it uses their six case studies of France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, Sweden and the Netherlands. The paper goes on to provide a more in-depth examination of trends within the British private rental housing sector. The final section attempts to draw out the lessons to be gathered from cross-national comparisons and attempts to place the Australian policy regime within this international dimension.

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National Housing Action