The current housing crisis has long been in motion since the 1980’s Right to Buy policy, tied with an ever-increasing population which has risen from 56.3million in 1980 to 63.2million in 2010.
The right to buy policy protected properties from landowners and allowed households on lower incomes to fulfil a population consensus, which revealed Britons’ need for personal security and ownership (see the Beveridge Report). The conservative neoliberal ideology birthed an incentive that even the most disadvantaged could own a home. However, that ideology currently plays a large part in isolating the very people it set out to help.
Recent examples can be see with Grenfell Tower, which highlights the inadequacy of much social and affordable housing. Secondly, Foxhill Estate revealed that council house tenants are vulnerable to short notice evictions on a system which has a waiting list made up of 20,000 people — some of which never obtain a house. Evidently, social housing is not available to all. In addition, young people who tend to be on lower incomes in general are more vulnerable to fall into the trap of renting (a business worth 40 billion pounds); profiting a landlord rather than paying off a mortgage.
Britons are especially struggling for housing in London, where property prices can exceed nine times a person’s salary and where 30 per cent of the population live in poverty — a number which is increasing. These statistics echo the need for policy makers to review greenbelt land, increase salaries to match the inflated property market, rethink the questionable existence of Right to Buy and, potentially offer incentives to landlords who enlist their property for affordable/social housing.
However, some of you may be thinking: how can those of us help who aren’t policy makers, council workers, landlords, members of Parliament or solicitors — besides petitioning and writing letters to those in authority?
I bet you didn’t think reviewing your community values would come into this debate? But hear me out. The family structure has vastly changed in the 30 years since Thatcher’s 1980 Right to Buy policy. With more stepfamilies, more single-parent households and more lone home owners (both young and old.) Britain has lost its community values through its hunt for independence, identity and consumerism. Western international developers and aid workers are generally in agreement that this is both a ‘good’ and a ‘right’. But I think Britain could be taught by lower income countries a thing or two about community values.
For example, in China the grandparents in their old age live with their adult children and grandchildren, not only offering advice and knowledge but reducing the demand on housing, cost of elderly care and childcare. Secondly, many communities in Africa believe that it takes a village to raise a child and the neighbours are called aunties, uncles, sisters and brothers. Lastly, in Middle Eastern countries, hospitality is a priority. To cook with neighbours, serve neighbours, and host strangers in need are all deemed important tokens of humanity. If Britain held such outward, community-centred values, I wonder if many of our problems would not ease and possibly even, with time, decrease. Not only in the demand for housing but also when it comes to our mental health and feelings of isolation.
We can’t find the solution to our problems by only looking from within our individualistic, Eurocentric approach. Maybe the solution to many of Britain’s problems could come from an outward, community focus.