Home-ownership and Ontological Security
Saunders used survey evidence to argue that home-ownership is more strongly associated with pride, warmth, autonomy, relaxation and identity than renting, (Saunders, 1990, pp. 270-274). However, his methodology has been criticised by a number of commentators (Darke, 1994; Doyle, 1996; Gurney, 1997) who argue that subtle differences between attitudes and meanings highlighted elsewhere (Kempson and Ford, 1995) are ignored. For example, whilst there is evidence in Saunders’ work for the existence of a tenure-specific meaning of home (Saun- ders, 1990, pp. 272-273) and for a set of tenure specific attitudes towards home improvement and pride of possession (pp. 298-299), the data actually tell us very little about what home-ownership means to people. This creates problems for Saunders in his attempt to equate home-ownership with `ontological security’–a term which is notoriously difficult to define (Franklin, 1986; Gurney, 1990, 1991; Dupuis and Thorns, 1998). Faced with an absence of appropriate evidence, Saunders uses `pride of possession’ as a proxy for ontological security. This shortcoming is compounded when he goes on to conflate ontological security with emotional security. Ideas of home which stress family, intimacy and love are well established (Fitchen, 1989; Allan and Crow, 1991; Anthony, 1997) but the consensus seems to be that they are more closely related to key events in gendered biographies than to housing tenure per se (Gurney, 1997). So Saunders’ research, although widely cited, adds very little to our understanding of the complex meanings associated with home- ownership.
In other words, I’m reading about how the reasons we give ourselves for buying a house are, in fact, cultural constructs, myths, clichés, rhetoric… “Pride of possession” should not be conflated with ontological security.
Go git your ontological security somewhere else, the urban studies researcher is telling me.