Eleven: Is our housing system sustainable?

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At the centre of all the changes that have occurred in the UK’s housing system is the debate about the extent to which the state can and should intervene to influence ‘the market’. These arguments can be seen clearly as long ago as the First World War, when controlled rents were introduced to protect private tenants (and the war-time economy) from the self-interested profiteering of private landlords. One hundred years later, roles have switched so that ‘the market’ is now seen as the saviour from all that the state provides in relation to housing: in the eyes of critics, ‘dependency’ and a lack of ‘social mobility’. How did we get to this point and how can we move beyond it?

This final chapter will look at this question in different ways. It has been written to provoke discussion and debate. The themes are:

  • the market and the state – the 2007–08 financial crisis in retrospect;

  • the re-emergence of class;

  • changing times: owner-occupation and individualism – the end of a dream?

  • changing times: the state reconsidered – another paradigm shift?

The 2007–08 global financial crisis generated enormous problems for governments across the ‘developed’ world. New Labour under the Prime Minister Gordon Brown responded in a way that was reflective of Keynesian economics. What was of great significance was the central role of the state. Central government took action to protect the country from the imminent collapse of the banking system. Britain’s best banks did not like it much, but, at the time, they had no alternative to nationalisation and recapitalisation.

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