The Growth of the Private Rented Sector
: The Implications for Housing Market Analysis and Planning for Housing Supply

  • Joe Frey

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The focus of this study is on improving the evidence base for planning for housing supply in Northern Ireland. The thesis explores the impact of the major structural change in the housing market since the beginning of the 21st century – the rapid growth of the private rented sector. It examines how housing economics can contribute to a better understanding of the definition and delineation of the functional housing markets that are seen as providing the optimum spatial framework for planning for housing.
The research is grounded in the theoretical framework underpinning functionally defined housing market areas (HMAs) based on the economic concept of spatial arbitrage and resulting patterns of household migration. Within this framework, the research critically examines current policy and practice in planning for housing supply in Northern Ireland and contrasts this with developments in England and Scotland. It utilises a mixed methodology with an emphasis on quantitative techniques to analyse a combination of Northern Ireland House Condition Survey data and data from Northern Ireland’s Valuation List. The analysis, which culminates in two binary logistic regression models, illustrates the very complex inter-relationship between the underlying socio-economic and demographic factors, which, in combination with housing circumstances, play an important role in explaining inter-tenure differences in household migration patterns within Northern Ireland.
The rich dataset enables the study to examine not only migration patterns, but also the economic concept of spatial arbitrage that underpins functional HMAs and housing submarkets. The thesis concludes that given the important role that the private rented sector now plays in the housing market, inter-tenure differences in migration patterns are of sufficient significance to warrant the use of tenure-specific HMAs as the spatial framework for housing market analysis and planning for housing supply in the context of larger urban agglomerations such as Belfast.
Date of AwardJun 2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMichael McCord (Supervisor) & Stanley Mc Greal (Supervisor)


  • Functional Housing Markets
  • Spatial Planning
  • Spatial Arbitrage
  • Regional Development Strategy

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