The Housing Crisis in the UK

A century of overcrowded homes: How we reported the story of American urbanisation

The following analysis was commissioned by the Centre for International Governance Innovation. The authors would like to thank the Center for International Governance Innovation for supporting this project.

In the early 20th century, in the US, a century of overcrowded homes was widely regarded as the worst of tragedies. The cause of this housing crisis: a combination of poor land use, rapid urbanisation and rapid rural population growth.

Housing has long been a central focus of urban studies: in the 1960s, US historian Samuel Gompers argued that housing was a primary problem of the age; in the early 1980s, the New Urbanist movement was concerned about the problem and the potential solutions. Today, housing is again a prime concern. In the UK, the ‘Housing Crisis’ has been a major feature of recent opinion.

But by what mechanisms did the problem develop in the first place? What was the cause of the housing crisis? Did its causes differ across the different regions of the US? Did it differ across different races and ethnicities? And what about in the UK and elsewhere in the Western world?

If you think that housing is a major political question, then this is clearly not a book about how houses are made. But it is a book about how houses are produced so that one could have a home.

Housing for our times

The most fundamental cause of the crisis in housing: that is a problem of urbanisation and demographic change. It does not really matter whether one accepts this theory or not: as long as it is true, it is fundamental to understanding the causes of the crisis.

There is no question that urbanisation and demographic change in the US and Britain were two of the greatest contributors to the housing crisis.

The issue is whether the same or different causes were involved in the case of other western countries. These causes can be thought to be local or national: national reasons

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