Housing wealth is the largest source of household wealth, but we know little about the distribution of housing wealth and how institutions have shaped this distribution. Subsidies for homeownership, privatisation of social housing and mortgage finance liberalisation are likely to have influenced the distribution of housing wealth in recent decades. To examine their impact, we describe housing wealth inequalities across occupational classes for two birth cohorts aged fifty and older. The analysis is conducted across 16 European countries with divergent welfare states and housing systems using the fourth wave of the survey of health, ageing and retirement in Europe (SHARE; 2011/2012). Our results indicate that the expansion of homeownership in a market-based housing system is associated with a more unequal distribution of housing wealth across occupational classes, as an increasing number of ‘marginal’ owners are drawn into precarious homeownership. Such a pattern is not found in housing wealth accumulation regimes with a less market-based provision of housing. When the state or the family drive homeownership expansion, a de-coupling of labour market income and housing consumption results in a more equal distribution of housing wealth.