Who is to blame for the housing crisis?
I’m one of the lucky ones. When I first moved to London in 1978 I lived in a succession of shared houses before saving enough money for the deposit on a flat in Hackney Wick. It cost £27,000 in 1983 – about twice our combined salary – and in 1988 we sold it for £85,000 and moved to Cambridge where we bought a Victorian terrace for £79,000, which is now worth around £500,000.
Since 1978, homes in the East End of London have increased in value ten-fold. My younger self would stand little chance of buying there now.
The main cause of the massive hike in rents and house prices over the past 30 years is the decline in housebuilding. In the late sixties we were building 350,000 homes a year in England. Last year we built a third of that (118,000). The result is a deepening housing crisis.
So who is to blame? Of course the buck stops with our politicians. A recent Ipsos MORI poll found that 86 percent of MPs disagreed with the statement that “there isn’t much that British governments can do to deal with Britain’s housing problem’’. So politicians know that they have the power to solve the problem, but they are caught in the crossfire between influential nimby protestors and constituents who are desperate for homes.
The trouble is that those who oppose new homes have often been more vocal than those who need them. That is why the Homes for Britain campaign is so important.
We need to change public opinion and make the case for housebuilding. But as a founding member of SHOUT, the Campaign for Social Housing, I believe we also need to make affordability a key part of the solution. We should aim to build 100,000 social rented homes a year.