What is the housing crisis?

In the 1980s it took three years to save a deposit for a house. Today it takes 19 (source). According to Shelter’s report, this has created a crisis of millions of people across the country who must rent, not through choice, but because the unaffordability of house ownership has left them in insecure and expensive rented accommodation.

Most private renters on low incomes struggle to afford their rent, so many cut back on food or clothing (pg6). Many fear being issued a section 21 eviction notice and losing their home. If they are forced to move, many are confronted with housing discrimination – 43% landlords do not accept people in receipt of housing benefit, known as a “no DSS” policy (pg22). This leaves people homeless, or forces Councils to supply families with temporary accommodation (B&Bs, hostels, houses of multiple occupation), often paying public money to private landlords.

Why has there been a decline in the social housing sector?

Firstly, there has been a massive flow of properties out of the Local Authority (LA) sector under the Right to Buy, which was introduced in 1980 and gave tenants in LA housing the right to purchase their home at a heavily discounted price.

Secondly, at the same time, there was a large decline in construction of new social housing relative to previous levels after large cuts to grants from central government.

As seen in the graph below, completions of new social housing fell from almost 150,000 per year in the 1970s to around 33,000 per year in the 1990s and 25,000 per year in the 2000s (IFS, Long-term trends in British Taxation and Spending, p10).

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