The Politics of Housing

The affordability problem dominates England's housing market: an increasing proportion of disposable household income being consumed by housing costs; difficulties for younger generations seeking to access the housing ladder, despite aspirations and expectations to do so; and, very long waiting lists for social housing.

The fundamental cause of the long-term affordability problem is the effect of supply constraints in the context of growing household demand. This report illustrates the highly paradoxical nature of the housing market: whilst housing is viewed as a private problem, it remains a very political issue; although housing comprises a principal determinant of quality of life and shortage of housing undermines quality of life, many individuals oppose an increase in supply.

Resolving the dilemma of the housing market is an inherently political process. At the central government ‘agenda-setting’ level, political motivations are likely to continue to be shaped by voter interests and aspirations. Despite the recent dip in home ownership levels, they remain high, and home ownership remains an aspiration for many. This report outlines steps the government can take to overcome the customary hostility to new supply by both reducing the number of insiders and diluting the oppositional influence of insiders in decision-making. Such policies will require more attractive alternatives to homeownership – such as a better private rented sector – and stronger incentives for communities to build more homes.

This report was published with the National Housing Federation (NHF). The NHF, which represents England’s housing associations, asked the SMF undertake a project exploring housing’s past and present relationships with politicians to understand how to engage with them in the future. The purpose was to guide the NHF’s thinking around its Towards a Vision project, which considers what housing associations need to do over the next 20 years to adjust to what could be a dramatically different political and operational landscape.

Download The Report: PDF

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