Debate Magazine

Home Ownership Doesn't Make You Happy

Posted on the 11 April 2018 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

I recently read that Finland had been ranked the happiest country in the world by the UN's Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which got me looking into its housing. After all, it has long been a tenet of this blog that home-ownership is a Good Thing, so perhaps the Finns were big on that.
Wikipedia gives a list of countries ranked by rates of home ownership and Finland, at 30th place with 72.7% is not hugely different from the UK at 42nd place with 64.5%. Indeed, of the top twenty countries by home-ownership rate, only six appear in the list of the top fifty happiest countries, with only Norway with 82.8% and the second happiest and Singapore with 90.8% the thirty-fourth happiest, having more than 80% home-ownership. Meanwhile Switzerland, the fifth happiest country, just scrapes in at the bottom with 43.5% home-ownership.
Finnish housing policy comes in for some plaudits but closer examination shows that it is not markedly different from the UK's. OK, they have a better attitude towards social housing, but they are still big on second homes (A Finnish saying is "Happiness is having your own red summer cottage and a potato field"), so housing wise, we do not have far to go if we are going to be more like the happiest country in the world. Just don't count on it making us any happier if we get there, though.

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