Growing numbers of people are renting rather than owning commodities such as music, films, cars and, crucially, housing. The shift from ownership to access in exchange for a fee is occurring in the context of new socio-economic conditions and digital platforms emerging from crisis-ridden landscapes. Homeownership, the social cement of capitalism in past decades, is losing ground to new access economies in housing, featuring transnational landlords and rental platforms. This entails that new profiles of renters and rentiers are gaining centrality in contemporary urban political economies. Novel forms of income generation have developed, but also novel forms of precariety and inequality. The project seeks to engage with these changing urban conditions and analyse emerging strategies to counter associated power and wealth imbalances. To this end, the project involves an intensive analysis of Barcelona, an ‘extreme case’ in two respects; (1) in the significance of the shift from ownership to access economies in housing, and (2) in how related asset-ownership inequalities, as well as asymmetries in the control of data and digital infrastructures, are being addressed in innovative ways. The project will analyse the development of digital counter-infrastructures and legal and policy innovations that are drafting new ‘social contracts’ for post-homeownership societies. Drawing on and contributing to political-economic urban theories and using qualitative as well as quantitative methods, this in-depth and interdisciplinary approach will generate new knowledge, which can inform theory and action on a pressing contemporary challenge.
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