One: Political choices and housing finance


Although some form of housing is needed by everyone in the UK, the ways in which it is provided and paid for often remain a mystery. People complain about rent increases or worry about rising mortgage costs, but what thought is there about how these are calculated and whether they should be challenged? The numbers of properties built each year, whether they are available to rent or buy and the costs of maintenance and longer-term improvement are also rarely considered. Instead, newspapers laud recent signs of increasing house prices as if these were a positive sign for the future. In reality, they signify fewer first-time buyers and increased mortgage debt.

Having been thoroughly distracted by New Labour consumerist ‘choices’ up to the 2010 general election, UK citizens are now facing Coalition austerity measures. These stigmatise and penalise the poor for being poor and ‘squeeze’ the apparently more deserving ‘middle’. The wealthiest have been left to continue creating wealth that will ‘trickle down’ for everyone’s benefit at some point in the distant future. Politicians have done better than this in the past. They can do better than this in the future, but only if pressure for progressive change is exerted by the electorate.

This chapter focuses on the influence that politicians may exercise on the financing of housing, tenure changes and housing costs. It looks at:

  • the influence of formal politics on the funding of different housing tenures, showing the changing balance between state and ‘market’ housing solutions;

  • the way in which the balance between different housing tenures has shifted over time, considering whether the growth of owner-occupation represents ‘modernisation’ and what the prospects might be for a resurgent council housing sector;

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