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FEATURE: Housing Crisis Is A Work Of Art

Posted by Mark Cantrell on December 16, 2012 at 7:35 PM

Always look on the bright side of life

From the September 2012 edition of Housing magazine: Despite the grim economic tidings and the ongoing horror story that is the housing crisis, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful – no, really. Mark Cantrell reports

Britain’s housing crisis is a thing of macabre beauty, it must be said. The sheer misery of its dysfunction is an artful depiction of a dystopian social aesthetic; seriously, it should be on display in the Tate Modern if only it could be suitably represented in all its intricate glory.


Granted, that’s a bizarre idea, but as time goes by and the reports and lamentations mount, it seems as good a thing as any to say about a crisis that is all but abolishing housing – or at least the concept of a stable, secure home (rented or otherwise) – for millions of ordinary Britons.


Meanwhile, the arguments abound. The search for a solution continues high and low. there are recriminations, fists banged on tables, increasingly desperate appeals to deliver the homes the country needs; initiatives are launched, schemes are devised, promises are made, rhetoric flourishes, and still the answers remain elusive.


The summer months have continued to paint a devastating portrait, with a series of reports and studies picking over the bones of the nation’s housing dream. The IPPR, for instance, published ‘together at home’ in June, as part of its ongoing review of housing policy, and – surprise surprise – it found that the English housing system is “unfit for purpose”.


“Demand has heavily outstripped supply for decades, with the situation now getting worse, not better,” the report said. “Home ownership is too often out of reach, leaving many people’s aspiration to own their own home unfulfilled. Social housing is being residualised. The private rented sector largely unprofessional and insecure and those who live in it have too little control over the place where they live. Meanwhile, public expenditure on housing benefit soars at over £20 billion a year and rising. England remains one of the richest countries in the world, but it is failing properly to house its people. The result is a segregated system with insufficient mobility between sectors and social differentials that are entrenched rather than overcome.”


This theme of entrenched segregation turns up again in different guise in a report the same month published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), ‘Housing options and solutions for young people’. In this, it is warned that by 2020 there will have emerged a ‘three tier’ system in the race to find private rented homes, with an affluent ‘caste’ of people who can afford the rents, a ‘squeezed middle’ who will struggle to pay, and around 400,000 people who will form a layer of borderline ‘outcasts’ who risk being excluded from the private rental market altogether.


That begs the question of where they might live. One answer is that an extra half a million young people will be forced to stay at the parental home well into their 30s, bringing the total to 3.7 million by 2020. On current form, it must be said, they are unlikely to be living in a social home.


“Our badly functioning housing system will see those on the lowest incomes really struggling to compete in the competitive rental market of 2020,” said Kathleen Kelly, the JRF’s programme manager for place. “Renting is likely to be the only game in town and young people are facing fierce competition to secure a home in what is an already diminished supply of housing. With 400,000 vulnerable young people, including families, on the bottom rung of a three-tier private renting system we need to avoid turning a housing crisis into a homelessness disaster.”


Read the rest of the article HERE.


Northern, Midlands, Southern Housing magazine,

September 2012

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