Economics of Housing and Public Policy Evaluation


Research team:

Etienne Wasmer (New York University Abu Dhabi, LIEPP affiliated)
Pierre-Henri Bono (LIEPP)
Guillaume Chapelle (University of Barcelone, IEB and LIEPP affiliated)
Florian Oswald (Department of Economics, Sciences Po)


This project has been selected by the French National Research Agency within the Generic call for proposals in 2017.

Housing is a critical target of public policy in France. It corresponds to social preferences, expressing the desire of citizens for decent and affordable housing conditions. The total budgetary effort of the Nation for housing public policies in 2014 exceeds  40 billion euros (Compte du Logement, 2014).  Redistribution and market failures, due to externalities for instance, provide the economic underpinning of those public policies. 

Housing is indeed a primary good, defined by Johh Rawls as desirable to any citizen, thus a common base for social justice. Public policies are explicitly targeted to the reduction of housing inequality with respect to laissez-faire. An extended set of policies (social housing, taxes and subsidies to renting or accessing ownership, rent controls, lower bounds of social housing for municipalities etc.) have been used to reach that goal but we do not know much about how successful they have been. Even from a purely descriptive view point, we cannot assess whether housing inequality in France is lower than in the US, the UK or Germany and by how much. Such a comparison would contrast countries between laissez-faire and intervention.  

Research in housing economics is undertaken in many research centers in France although the number of researchers involved remains small. The crucial importance of a high-quality public debate about housing policies in France cannot be enough emphasized given the large budgetary efforts at stake. This is why we propose to create ECHOPPE, a decentralized laboratory on the issue, which will provide a scientific environment for researchers in housing economics in France. This would coordinate their research effort and further our knowledge of housing economics.  

A “place” such as ECHOPPE does not exist in France at the moment. This “open laboratory” would favor scientific exchanges between a large group of researchers located in AixMarseille, Paris and Toulouse. Each researcher involved has already carried out research on the impact of housing policies, housing inequalities, social housing, economic geography or housing supply. Our project will formalize this cooperation and will open a platform accessible by all researchers in housing economics. Specifically, we will organize workshops and other exchanges (seminars) to invite national or international researchers in economics, but also in other disciplines working in housing-related fields. In particular sociology and political science are influential on policy decisions and help us better understand issues related to the implementation of policies. Such an interface has in particular been experimented via the Labex LIEPP and a protocol for bottom up interdisciplinarity (instead of top down and forced interdisciplinarity) can be directly imported.

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