As the cost of living crisis worsens, house prices remain higher than most can afford, and rents are rising at their fastest pace in a decade, housing affordability is being brought into the spotlight. People are facing the biggest squeeze on incomes in generations, faced with increasingly unsustainable debt and rent arrears. Added to this is the urgent need to retrofit our existing building stock and protect people from rising flooding and overheating risk as part of efforts to tackle the ecological crisis. There is a need for evidence-based policies to manage housing inaffordability and quality, which will be a critical issue in next General and Mayoral elections.
How are you working to solve it?
We are trying to encourage policy-makers, politicians and civil servants to tackle the root cause of the unaffordability of our homes, and make it easier for people to retrofit, maintain and care for them. We want them to look at the demand side drivers of these issues.
By this we mean ways of tackling the housing crisis that go beyond building new homes. This might include new, progressive forms of land and property taxes, restricting excessive mortgage lending and protecting people from unsustainable mortgage debt, and removing incentives and legal structures that allow investors, non-residents and companies to invest in our homes. We also look at how homes can be managed in a more affordable and environmentally friendly way: decent, low carbon social homes, community-lead and cooperative structures and a fair private rental sector.
The role of the financial system in the housing crisis is poorly understood, and largely ignored by politicians and policy-makers. But 50% of all bank loans in the UK go towards mortgages, and our system of taxes, legal arrangements and lending rules incentivizes landlords, companies and the very wealthy to treat our homes as assets in which they can store wealth. Our research sheds a light on the 'financialisation' of our homes, why it makes conditions so challenging for the people living in them, and what we can do about it.
We have a unique approach combining research, influencing, and mobilising people to get our policy proposals adopted for better social outcomes. This approach alongside significant coalition building led to the Chancellor giving the Bank of England a new green mandate in 2021.