Five excellent books discussing the housing crisis in the United Kingdom.
The problem of unaffordable housing, lack of security, overcrowding, and homelessness is a widespread issue that may seem impossible to solve. However, this is not the case. Our current dilemma is the result of deliberate political decisions made by previous generations in order to maintain their authority and safeguard their possessions. The books listed below provide insight into how this ongoing crisis came to be and offer potential solutions for moving beyond it.
The article “Generation Rent” by Chloe Timperley discusses the challenges of purchasing a home or finding a decent rental property.
This book shares stories of black mould, poorly done repairs, rent increases, retaliatory evictions, and stolen deposits, all of which are unfortunately common experiences for those who have rented in the UK. Written by Chloe Timperley, a young renter with a financial background, the book offers insight into how we arrived at this point. It discusses the impact of the right to buy, the unethical actions of land agents, the issue of ground rents, and the ongoing problem of leasehold agreements. These factors have resulted in a situation where renters are spending nearly 40% of their income on enriching their landlords.
“London’s Audience: Analyzing Big Capital” by Anna Minton
Following her groundbreaking book Ground Control in 2009, which delves into the growing trend of privatizing public spaces, Anna Minton turns her attention towards exposing the root causes of London’s housing crisis with a calm yet powerful voice. In Big Capital, Minton sheds light on the deliberate political choices that have led to housing being treated as a “financialized” asset, and uncovers the loopholes that allow developers to avoid their responsibilities for providing affordable housing. Through personal interviews with individuals directly affected, such as victims of human trafficking living in illegal garden sheds and mothers forced to share one-bedroom flats with their children in far-off towns, Minton paints a vivid picture of a broken system at every level.
The Property Lobby: The Hidden Reality Behind the Housing Crisis by Bob Colenutt
Bob Colenutt, a seasoned advocate and urban designer, has transitioned into a bold scholar who is equipped to uncover the opaque realm of property development. Drawing from his experience, he provides practical solutions for rectifying the issue. In his concise book of 160 pages, he sheds light on the intricate web of landowners, builders, investors, professional organizations, and policymakers who work to maintain the current system, benefiting themselves at the expense of others. Colenutt asserts that the housing crisis is not a coincidence, but rather a deliberate creation of a select group with no incentive to resolve it.
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Examine the Tragedy: The Role of Negligence in the Grenfell Fire, written by Peter Apps.
The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire has exposed damaging aspects of the construction industry and those responsible for regulating it. Peter Apps, a housing journalist with extensive coverage of the incident, tells a gripping story in his book. He skillfully weaves together firsthand accounts from the night of the fire with chapters that examine the political, regulatory, and managerial shortcomings that preceded it. This highlights the consequences of the government’s cost-cutting measures and lack of responsibility, which ultimately resulted in a devastating fire.
John Boughton’s book, “Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing”, explores the history of council housing and its decline.
Instead of focusing on the housing crisis, Municipal Dreams reflects on a different era and questions why, despite postwar austerity, it was possible to construct hundreds of thousands of homes, while today it seems unattainable. John Boughton, the author of the renowned blog with the same title, beautifully showcases the country’s council estates and their occupants. In his book, he traces the origins and development of public housing and skillfully explains how the policies of successive governments have contributed to our current situation. The book praises a time when housing was considered a vital social service and passionately advocates for a revival of this principle. Keir Starmer, please take note.