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Universalistic, Particularistic and Middle Way Approaches to Comparing the Private Rental Sector


  • Marietta Haffner
  • Joris Hoekstra
  • Michael Oxley
  • Harry Heijden


The paper will argue that the meaning and definition of private renting varies from country to country, and this presents a series of challenges for comparative research. It will demonstrate a lack of equivalence between 'private rented housing sectors' in western Europe and show that this arises from variations in definitions, property rights, the role of the tenure in relation to other tenures, and differences in the characteristics of both landlords and tenants. It will show that an argument can be made that the private rental sector is a different phenomenon in different countries but that comparisons are still valuable. It will argue that between the extremes of universalism, that emphasise similarities, and particularism that emphasises differences, middle way approaches that consider contexts, apply commensurability and apply theory that is fit for purpose all have strong methodological advantages. The argument will be expanded by reference to the authors' work on applying the concept of a competitive gap between market and social renting in six European countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Marietta Haffner & Joris Hoekstra & Michael Oxley & Harry Heijden, 2010. "Universalistic, Particularistic and Middle Way Approaches to Comparing the Private Rental Sector," International Journal of Housing Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(4), pages 357-377.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:intjhp:v:10:y:2010:i:4:p:357-377
    DOI: 10.1080/14616718.2010.526400

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