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Crisis? What Crisis?


By Paul Smith

Maybe I’ve been spending too much time with other housing people. We seem to be unable to describe the housing market or the nation’s housing situation without adding the epithet, ‘Crisis’. So why is it missing from government, and indeed opposition, priorities?

Housing people keep waving statistics at me. The organisation, Crisis, (who must be biased: just look at their name!) expect 300,000 households to be homeless on any one night in 2023, homelessness being defined as a combination of sleeping on the streets, sofa surfing and living in temporary accommodation. Shelter (perhaps just another self-interested organisation, pushing their agenda to defend the right to a safe home) claims that 20% of renters in England have poor health due to their housing conditions. The Office for National Statistics state that “In England in 2021, full time employees could typically expect to spend around 9.1 times their workplace-based annual earnings on purchasing a home.” Haven’t these statistical people heard of avocado on toast?

However, it would be easy to conclude that there’s no housing crisis if you look at the priorities of the two main parties, and the almost completely housing-measure-free budget this month.

The Government has 5 priorities: 1) halving inflation 2) economic growth, 3) debt falling 4) cutting NHS waiting lists and 5) “Stop the Boats”. You may think that all of these have a housing element but the Government has not made such a claim. Stopping The Boats is clearly much, much more important than Building The Homes. It’s not as if stopping the boats would even reduce migration impacts on housing demand as the budget actually envisages a rise in economic migration to boost economic output.

But what of His Majesty’s loyal opposition? Well, they also have 5 priorities (Tony Blair’s pledge card has a lot to answer for) except they are called ‘missions’: 1) Secure the highest sustained growth in the G7 (in old football parlance this is man or woman marking of the Conservatives’ number 2), 2) Make Britain a clean energy superpower 3) Build an NHS fit for the future (marking number 4), 4) make Britain’s streets safe (please be quiet, those in the back who also want to make Britain’s homes safe) and 5) break down barriers to opportunity at every stage. Again, I’m sure we could construct an argument about how improving housing and housing supply could contribute to these but it’s not explicit.

So the next time someone (probably me) tells you there is a housing crisis just laugh in their face and remind them that it doesn’t make anyone’s top 5.

Crisis? What Crisis?