In History of the Housing Crisis, Rebecca Searle offers a unique insight into the long history of the housing crisis, telling three stories that are central to understanding the contemporary crisis. The first explores the growth of owner occupation and how this was fostered by generations of parliamentarians as they wrested to contain the disruptive potential of democratization. The rise and fall of council housing is traced in the second story, which documents how a rent strike organized by Glasgow women forced the introduction of rent controls and council house building. Finally, the third story details the surprising legacy of the strikes, which was the boost they gave to the housing finance industry. Searle charts how successive property booms were fueled by lenders using financial mechanisms to displace risk to extend loans to lower-earning households. Rising interest rates placed strain on overextended borrowers and as boom turned to bust, wider economic turbulence ensued. Today we sit upon the largest housing bubble yet seen. As interest rates creep up, this book offers a timely intervention on how housing policy could better house the people.
Rebecca Searle is a contemporary historian whose work focuses on the ways in which the study of the past can be used to make critical interventions in the politics of the present. She is a principal lecturer at the University of Brighton and deputy director of the Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics, and Ethics. Searle established and leads the University of Brighton Housing Forum, which brings together researchers, community organizations and policymakers to develop local solutions to the housing crisis in Brighton and Hove.
Chapter 1: Property
Chapter 2: Housing the People
Chapter 3: Boom and Bust: The Growth of Housing Finance
About the Author
Enlightening, inspiring and revealing in equal measure. From the plotting of Conservatives to the failures of New Labour and the rearising of radicalism in Scotland, Rebecca Searle’s brilliant account of the housing history of Britain not only details where we have come from, but also where we need to move to next.
An outstanding survey of Britain’s current housing crisis, its terrible effects on growing numbers of housing-deprived, and its origins in centuries of conservative commitment to grasping private property ownership. By 1915 so many could not afford decent housing that they rebelled, led by a Glasgow women’s rent strike which scared the government into imposing rent controls and funding council housing. This belated, incomplete recognition of a human right to decent housing survived to the 1980s, when Thatcher returned to the old ways, leading to a situation now comparable with 1915. As Searle concludes, only renewed resistance will end this return to inhuman housing inequality.
This engaging and important new book shows exactly why understanding the past matters. In Searle's hands the history of housing sheds new light on the development of modern Britain. History of the Housing Crisis both explains the current housing crisis and suggests how it might be resolved. Everyone should read it.
Searle offers a compact book of three chapters exploring the current British housing crisis. She traces this crisis back several centuries to an era before people described the desire to own property as “natural.” Searle convincingly reveals that generations of parliamentarians created this aspiration by crafting policies that gradually shifted England away from a feudal order, in which land represented a network of “rights and obligations,” to a vision of land as an asset. Council housing and rent controls, however, provided adequate housing to many who could not obtain owner occupation. The 1980s saw a disastrous shift. Parliamentarians on both sides supported owner occupation, leading to a massive sale of council houses. Rent controls enacted after the 1915 Glasgow rent strike were lifted in 1988. Questionable building society practices long created an unstable foundation for homeownership, and the entry of banks into the mortgage market triggered a global financial upset in 2007. Since then, policy has allowed housing finance to become an even more powerful economic factor while housing values have far exceeded wage growth, contributing to inequality. Searle concludes with policy suggestions to reduce this disparity. Recommended. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals.