Housing: Commodity versus right

Mary Pattillo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


The study of housing has a long history in sociology, but since the 1960s, it has been relatively hidden in a number of sociological subfields and scattered across a range of disciplines. The financial crisis of 2008 elevated housing issues to the level of national and international debate and protest, and it offers a framework for organizing the scholarship on housing into that which studies housing as a commodity, on one hand, and as a right, on the other. In the former category, I review the literature on mortgage financing; property values and wealth; and affordable rental housing, foreclosures, and evictions. In the latter category, I discuss the theoretical arguments for a right to housing and review the research on activist demands for that right. The tension between these two aspects of housing is discussed throughout. I conclude by proposing the actual home or apartment as a productive area for new sociological analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)509-531
Number of pages23
JournalAnnual Review of Sociology
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Affordable housing
  • Mortgages
  • Property values
  • Public housing
  • Tenant activism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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