Classification, de-classification and re-classification in the housing market
The example of residents in poor housing
Based on the example of residents in poor housing in Paris, this paper focuses on the importance of housing in social class mechanisms and the interdependence between social and residential status for those in positions of precarity. Housing deprivation implies a downgrading of status in society, especially for those who experience « residential de-classification » (i.e., are unable to house themselves decently because of the situation in the housing market despite being comparatively socially integrated). Far from being passive, the poorly housed fight against this decline and aspire to residential as much as social re-classification by way of social housing. However, for the most deprived, rehousing can bring about social malaise when accompanied by an « over-elevated residential class », that is, when social status is not « as high » as a new residential status. In their case, residential and social statuses work like connecting vessels. Obliged to choose between housing and consumption, it is impossible for them to climb one of the hierarchies without slipping back in the other. Social and housing orders are thus tightly interwoven and any changes in one of the orders that are not followed by similar changes in the other have significant psychological and social effects.