Britain's Housing Crisis: Causes and Solutions


British house construction has remained at a low level for a decade.   Total new house and flat completions for all tenures last year were 113,670 for England, 17,470 for Scotland, and 6,170 for Wales. Excluding Northern Ireland that is 137,310 for Britain. Under 140,000 homes a year is low for a nation of 60 million.

We are nearly at the lowest level of housing production since reliable records began in the 1920s. (Note 1)    read more »

A Leg Up: World's Largest Cities No Longer Homes of Upward Mobility


Throughout much of history, cities have served as incubators for upward mobility. A great city, wrote René Descartes in the 17th century, was “an inventory of the possible,” a place where people could lift their families out of poverty and create new futures. In his time, Amsterdam was that city, not just for ambitious Dutch peasants and artisans but for people from all over Europe. Today, many of the world’s largest cities, in both the developed and the developing world, are failing to serve this aspirational function.  read more »

Why Affordable Housing Matters


Economists, planners and the media often focus on the extremes of real estate — the high-end properties or the foreclosed deserts, particularly in the suburban fringe. Yet to a large extent, they ignore what is arguably the most critical issue: affordability.  read more »

Coalition of the Unwilling


This week the UK government announced an ”end to anti-car policies” reversing the guidance to local authorities to dissuade citizens from using their cars in favour of public transport. Charges for parking will be reined in, they promise.

It should be good news. The comically-named ”traffic calming” schemes put in place by the outgoing government were deeply unpopular. Still, we are getting used to taking our announcements from the new coalition government with a pinch of salt.  read more »

Who’s Racist Now? Europe’s Increasing Intolerance


With the rising tide of terrorist threats across Europe, one can somewhat understandably expect a   surge in Islamophobia across the West. Yet in a contest to see which can be more racist, one would be safer to bet on Europe than on the traditional bogeyman, the United States.

One clear indicator of how flummoxed Europeans have become about diversity were the remarks last week by German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying that multi-culturalism has “totally failed” in her country, the richest and theoretically  most capable of absorbing immigrants. “We feel tied to Christian values,” the Chancellor said. “Those who don’t accept them don’t have a place here.”  read more »

London Special Report: Britain Drifts South – and Why Not?


The British Broadcasting Corporation wants 1500 of its staff to move to its new ”MediaCity” headquarters in Salford, near Manchester in northwest England. The Corporation, they say with some justification, is too southern, too much part of the metropolitan elite. The move ”addresses concerns that the organisation is not fully representative of the peoples of the UK.”

On the surface it looks like a good deal. On top of a £5000 payment, they have been offered £350 for each house-hunting journey as well as removal costs, a guaranteed house purchase scheme and and even £3,000 for new carpets and curtains. Other benefits include help securing jobs for spouses or partners jobs in the area and specialist help with children's schooling.  read more »

London Special Report: The Making of the Hundred Mile City


(Part I of II.) The writer Ford Madox Ford summarised the inventiveness of the early twentieth century in an essay The Future of London (1909) by lambasting what he called the “tyranny of the past.” “The future,” he argued on the other hand, wages a ceaseless war against the monuments of the past’.

This debate is alive today in the battle between the emerging metropolitan reality and the nostalgia of the urban past. Ford’s dream was of a Great London ‘… not of seven, but of seventy-million imperially minded people’.  read more »

The Future Of America's Working Class


Watford, England, sits at the end of a spur on the London tube's Metropolitan line, a somewhat dreary city of some 80,000 rising amid the pleasant green Hertfordshire countryside. Although not utterly destitute like parts of south or east London, its shabby High Street reflects a now-diminished British dream of class mobility. It also stands as a potential warning to the U.S., where working-class, blue-collar white Americans have been among the biggest losers in the country's deep, persistent recession.  read more »

America's European Dream


The evolving Greek fiscal tragedy represents more than an isolated case of a particularly poorly run government. It reflects a deeper and potentially irreversible malaise that threatens the entire European continent.

The issues at the heart of the Greek crisis – huge public debt, slow population growth, expansive welfare system and weakening economic fundamentals – extend to a wider range of European countries, most notably in weaker fringe nations like Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain (the so-called PIIGS). These problems also pervade many E.U. countries still outside the Eurozone in both the Baltic and the Balkans.  read more »

Migration: Geographies In Conflict


It's an interesting puzzle. The “cool cities”, the ones that are supposedly doing the best, the ones with the hottest downtowns, the biggest buzz, leading-edge new companies, smart shops, swank restaurants and hip hotels – the ones that are supposed to be magnets for talent – are often among those with the highest levels of net domestic outmigration. New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Miami and Chicago – all were big losers in the 2000s. Seattle, Denver, and Minneapolis more or less broke even.  read more »