Shaky Foundations: The Human Cost of Our Housing Crisis

There have been a number of reports on our housing crisis over the past week, from us, the Resolution Foundation and, most recently, Shelter. In different ways these reports all paint the same picture: a hugely unfair and dysfunctional housing market that favours the rich and penalises the poor. While it is important to demonstrate the economic aspects of our housing crisis, and the rank inequality it both drives and reveals, what about the deeper impact on us as human beings? 

The stresses and strains of making the rent, the over-crowding in sub-standard conditions (especially hard on children) and the widespread feelings of impermanence will all exact cumulative physical and psychological damage across large swathes of our population. Then there is the wider harm caused to our social cohesion by having a country starkly – and it seems more and more permanently – divided into the “housing haves and the renting rest” as we described it in our report. A few years back, another commentator described the UK situation as being like neo-serfdom. Well, now it’s worse. As Citizens Advice found, in a report published today, the private rental sector is even failing to deliver decent living conditions for those who cannot afford to buy.

All this is not a recipe for a society that is successful or at ease with itself. The lack of comfort and security driven by our housing crisis is not conducive to good physical or mental health, productivity at work or congeniality in the home and local neighbourhood. The crushing of dreams and aspirations for younger people who see little prospect of having the life their parents or grandparents had can only store up feelings of resentment or detachment.

Until we create more affordable housing and a fairer distribution of our housing and wealth across the UK, we will continue to suffer the serious consequences of this entirely avoidable situation. Please send an email or letter to your MP today to urge action. Some suggested wording is below. Thank you.

Bill Kerry – Supporters & Local Groups Manager

Dear [name of MP]

Your action needed on the UK housing crisis

Can you please tell me what action you are planning to take in response to the UK’s growinghousing crisis?

According to the new briefing note from The Equality Trust, A House Divided, we have now arrived at a situation in this country where we have the “housing haves and the renting rest” which is crushing the life chances and aspirations of our younger generations. Housing in the UK is now both a key driver of inequality and a vivid mark of a starkly divided nation. To take two examples from the report:

* Around 95% of renters don’t have enough savings to put down a 20% deposit on the average first home, whereas…

* Twenty four of the wealthiest 100 people in Britain last year grew their wealth, in part, through owning property. They have a combined worth of over £78 bn.  Last year these 24 people saw their wealth rise by almost £7 bn. That’s the equivalent of 33,144 average priced houses.

The briefing note can be found here. It urges bold reforms to the council tax system to make it a progressive property tax (it is currently very regressive) as well as a programme of house-building to alleviate the chronic situation we now find ourselves in.

Please advise what action you intend to take to support these measures and to tackle the shameful inequality that our dysfunctional housing market now inflicts upon us and especially the young.

Yours sincerely