The effect of competition and ownership policies on the housing market
Abstract: This dissertation consists of five studies presented in seven essays. The overall objectives are to investigate the extent and consequences of competition on the rental housing market as well as the importance of national government policies for the substitute good, i.e. owner-occupied housing. However, each essay also has specific objectives.Due to the characteristics of the housing market, one should not expect competition to be very fierce. The market characteristics are, for instance, capital-intensive, complicated and time-consuming construction processes as well as a limited supply of land in many areas. In fact, firms have a lot to gain from colluding and to avoid e.g. price wars. It is therefore theoretically more likely that housing companies will engage in “functional” or “strategic” competition such as the quality of housing services.Essay I and IV analyze the unique municipal housing market in Sweden where apartment rents are determined by negotiations between the local municipal company and the local Union of Tenants. A regression analysis is applied on data from 30 municipalities. There was a strong correlation between apartment rents at local municipal markets and the level of “external” competition (measured by the price level on the market for single-family owner occupied housing), but not with “internal” competition (measured by the market share of the municipal housing company) or the capital expenditure of the municipal housing company (presumed to reflect historical construction and renovation costs for the apartments).The dissertation also investigates the consequences on rents (essay II) and on the quality of housing services (essay III) from a local Swedish municipal housing company selling a substantial part of its apartment stock (15-40 percent) and thereby theoretically creating more competition. These essays use a quasi-experimental methodology whereby the development of the housing market in a privatization town is compared with the development in a very similar comparison town. It is found that privatization has lead to lower rents in the short- and medium-term in six out of seven privatization towns. The development of the quality of housing services was more related to the performance of each individual company and not a specific category of companies. In essay V, these results are merged and developed further.Essay VI presents a wide range of policies available for governments wishing to increase access to home ownership for low-income households and thereby increasing the pressure on rental housing companies to reduce rents. A systematic overview of policies is provided based on the four distinct time periods of a typical ‘housing career’ of a household; i.e. down payment accumulation stage, transaction stage, ownership stage and selling stage. It is found that many policies are required to meet the specific and differing needs of households for governments wishing to encourage home ownership.Essay VII describes that home ownership rates have increased in almost all industrialized countries during the period from World War II until mid-1990s. The essay analyses the implications of government policies and some other factors (e.g. national wealth, income distribution) on home ownership rates in 13 industrialized countries during the period 19702000. A fixed-effect model is applied on a panel data set. The most important result is that a statistically significant and positive correlation between government support and home ownership rates was found although this is only a preliminary conclusion since data was scarce.
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