Housing, Migration and Family Dynamics


Rory Coulter
UCL Department of Geography
University College London
London, UK

Tomáš Hoření Samec (main contact)
Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences
Prague, Czech Republic

Michael Thomas
Faculty of Spatical Sciences
University of Groningen
Groningen, The Netherlands

Isabel Palomares Linares
Faculty of Spatical Sciences
University of Groningen
Groningen, The Netherlands

Central themes
The Housing and Family Dynamics Working Group, in early January 2019 renamed Housing, Migration and Family Dynamics, was established in 2014 to provide a forum for the dissemination and discussion of research examining how families interact with housing systems.
Examples of research conducted by members of the Working Group includes, but is certainly not confined to, the following areas:

  • Quantitative research examining how demographic events such as leaving the parental home, childbirth, employment transitions or changes in partnerships are linked to residential moves, as well as housing and neighbourhood transitions in different countries.
  • Studies of family relations and housing pathways — including work exploring intergenerational social mobility within housing systems, practices of family support in housing markets, and the socialisation of housing aspirations/preferences.
  • Research into international and internal migration flows, in particular the ways these reshape and are affected by housing systems and family networks.
  • Analyses of how family life is affected by housing conditions, design and systems of housing welfare and support.
  • Theoretical and applied research drawing on constructionist perspectives, discourse analysis and/or innovative participatory research methods to understand family practices and relational interactions within housing systems.

Activities and output in recent years
In 2017, we organised a strand of workshop sessions at the ENHR 2017 annual conference in Tirana. At these sessions, we trialled a new interactive and discussion oriented format for the presentation of submitted research papers. This aimed to build on the intensive discussions that took place during the workshops organized at the 2015 ENHR Conference in Lisbon and the 2016 ENHR Conference in Belfast. Overall, we ran three sessions in Tirana with seven presenters and five submitted full papers. The presentation topics covered a number of wide-ranging themes including housing careers and life course transitions; (changing) housing norms, family practices and non-traditional families; and also families’ adaptations to housing risks and vulnerabilities.

Beyond Tirana, both Rory Coulter and Michael Thomas were involved in the organisation of the ‘Partnerlife’ International Workshop on Family Dynamics and Housing in the Life Course. This event was held in St Andrews on May 18-19 and brought together an international audience of academics, practitioners and policy professionals to discuss issues of concern relating to housing and family dynamics. Rory Coulter also organised a policy workshop on ‘Young adults’ housing: Changing choices, constraints and challenges’ in London on September 12 2017. At this event 25 invited academics and stakeholders discussed the current housing difficulties of young people and how these could be tackled.

In 2018, we (co-)organised a strand of workshop sessions at the ENHR 2018 annual conference in Uppsala. The Housing and Family Dynamics Working Group ran two sessions with five full papers presented (several papers were unfortunately withdrawn at the last minute). The presentations covered key themes associated with housing careers and life course transitions and families’ adaptations to housing precarity and vulnerabilities in European and East Asian contexts. Beyond this, we had a successful co-organised session with the Migration, Residential Mobility and Neighbourhood Change Working Group, covering the themes of family dynamics, residential mobility and neighbourhood change.

Beyond Uppsala, Working Group co-ordinator Tomáš Samec organised a successful international workshop in Prague entitled ‘New Housing Challenges: Financialization and Families’ (9th-11th May), bringing together PhD students, post-doc researchers and professors from within and beyond the ENHR Working Group. Several papers from the workshop form part of a forthcoming special issue in journal Critical Housing Analysis edited by Tomáš. Rory Coulter and Michael Thomas also organised a sponsored session for the Population Geography Research Group on ‘Housing landscapes and the life course’ at the Royal Geographical Society Annual International Conference 2018 (Cardiff, UK).

At the turn of year a special issue on ‘Housing Financialisation and Families’ was published in the international journal Critical Housing Analysis (http://www.housing-critical.com/archive/?year=2018&issue=2). This special issue was based on the 2018 workshop ‘New Housing Challenges: Financialization and Families’ organized by Tomáš Hoření Samec under the auspices of the Working Group.

2019 was in general a year of consolidation and preparation, with Working Group convenors developing applications for the funding of future academic workshops.

Future plans
We plan to organize at least one workshop in 2020. A workshop in Prague is already in preparation, focused on the (current) housing crises and diminishing housing affordability for young adults in Prague and Europe more widely. Given the group’s expanded interest in population mobility/migration, resulting patterns of gentrification and displacement will also be an area of focus. The intention is to arrange the workshop for June 2020. We also plan to run Working Group sessions at the ENHR-2020 Annual Conference in Cyprus.

Policy implications
An important goal of the Working Group is to bring policy more deeply into research on housing and families. Papers discussing family and housing policy developments are always welcome at workshop sessions. Past examples of policy relevant work undertaken by group members include:

  • Work on how men and women’s housing careers are affected differently by separation.
  • Studies of the transmission of inequality between generations through EU housing systems (for example through family assistance to enter homeownership in young adulthood).
  • The ways in which family relations and family formation are influenced by housing and welfare systems.
  • Analysis of debt (mortgage and family loans) discourse, focus on arguments used to justify intergenerational transfers and parental help in obtaining formal mortgage loans.
  • Analysis of the impact of housing debt (and other housing conditions) on partnership stability.

As work on housing and family dynamics is diverse and is often spread thinly across fields and disciplines, an important goal of the Working Group is to provide a collegial network which brings together researchers with varied expertise to exchange ideas, findings and insights about the links between families and housing.
The Working Group functions primarily as a network and has a mailing list with roughly 45 members.