Investing in inequality: how the increase in private housing investors shapes social divides


Socio-economic inequalities show a sharp increase across Western countries, and housing-market commodification is frequently cited as an important driver. Residential real estate functions as a site of investment, absorbing domestic and international capital flows. The recent rise of private investors who buy property to rent out (“buy-to-let”) reflects this trend. These investors are individuals owning a small number of dwellings who are purchasing additional property to generate income. Their impact stretches far beyond the real estate they purchase, influencing entire housing markets and social inequalities. To understand this impact, this project centres on the following research question: How does the rise of private investors on the housing market impact key social inequalities?
In answering this question, this project first analyses the class position of private housing investors. It then investigates the influence of private property investment on three important social inequalities: (1) unequal housing access; (2) uneven wealth accumulation; and (3) spatial inequality. Despite how important this trend is, the impact of investors on inequalities remains unknown, a lacuna that this project will address at length.
To construct a unique dataset, I will link individual-level register data of the entire population to dwelling-level data in the Netherlands since 2006. With these data it is possible to locate private housing investors and their purchases. Impacts on the three key inequalities stated above can be unravelled through a complex series of analyses on these data.
In contributing data-driven analyses to the critical theory literature on class and socio-economic inequality, this project innovatively draws on the recent advance of private housing investing as a lens to study the central role of housing in (re)producing social inequalities. Empirically, the project presents unprecedented analyses of inequalities in housing access, wealth and space. The project has major societal relevance, informing topical debates about housing investors.


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. C. Hochstenbach

Affiliated with

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit der Maatschappij- en Gedragswetenschappen, Urban Geographies / Urban Studies

Team members

Dr. C. Hochstenbach, Dr. C. Hochstenbach, Dr. C. Hochstenbach


30/01/2020 to 31/08/2022