The housing crisis: too difficult or a great opportunity?

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Spring 2016
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Housing is an area where neoliberalism has been successful in shifting attitudes away from the notion that it is the business of the state to make provision for adequate homes for all, and towards the idea that housing should be seen as a market: i.e. the state has no business in subsidising the poor through providing affordable housing, or in regulating the private sector. Underlying financial relationships and financial institutions have underpinned this process, in particular the shift in the economy towards profit-taking from assets, including property, and away from investing in the productive economy. The alliance of financial interests with the ancient landowning aristocracy is evident here. It was Thatcher who started the initiative to ‘democratically’ extend the ranks of property owners, and thereby to simultaneously extend the numbers of those with a material interest in property-owning and financial concerns - as evinced, for example, in popular enthusiasm for rising asset prices and easy credit. Widespread home ownership, and the material interests of home-owners, can make it difficult to forge alliances for change in this area: housing is not a field in which the 99 per cent confront the 1 per cent. This makes it all the more important to frame the issues and put forward solutions in ways that facilitate the making of a common cause; the article concludes with useful suggestions for policy in the short and long term.