Britain's Housing Crisis: The Places People Live


For twenty years British house building has fallen behind demand, forcing up prices and rents. Here's a series of photos showing some of the things people have had to do to live.

Victoria Campbell was living in a shed in her parents' garden in Havant, while she and her fiance saved up for a deposit, but the Council has told her that she has to move out.

This family in Plashet Park have been living in a shed for some time.

In East London, council officers are going checking out garden sheds to make sure that they are not being rented out, as they check too to see if houses are over-occupied.

In Caledonian Road, super-exploiting landlord Andrew Panayi converted unprofitable shops into money-making flats, and decided to convert their cellars into more flats.

This is the flats' skylight, outside.

This is the passage and stairway down to the flats.

This is the underground landing with the flats' front doors.

And this is the interior.

These garden sheds in Southall have been turned into homes, and ones like them are rented out to labourers.

Carl Bond and Stacey Drinkwater converted a double-decker bus for somewhere to live.

In Crystal Palace Laura Park lives in this converted public toilet.

Many people have tried to evade the planning laws that stop people from building, but disguising homes as sheds or barns.

Alan and Sarah Beesely built their home inside a barn, as you can see from the skylights. They were told by the council to knock it down.

Carl Jones built this garage, but building inspectors decided it was really a house, and told him to take it down.

So too this toolshed in a garden centre in Stroud was found to be a home, and ordered was ordered to come down.

In the Pembrokshire National Park Brithdir Moor, Janet and Tony Wrench built the Roundhouse, which was also ordered taken down.

For years now housebuilders in Britain have failed to build enough homes for people to live in.

We were told that more homes would encroach on the 'green belt' and the countryside. Foolish commentators like Simon Jenkins and Tristram Hunt warned - laughably - of a 'Tsunami of concrete' threatening the countryside. Powerful lobbies like the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Urban Taskforce and the Green Party did all they could to stop new building. But it turns out that less than one tenth of Britain is developed.

Instead of developing the land we need government and municipal authorities said that they would 'build up, not out', and that they could get more people, into less space, by more compact, smart growth. At the time the development advocacy Audacity told them that this could only lead to overcrowding, and that their 'smart growth' would take us back to Victorian social problems.

Today, more people are willing to acknowledge that there is a problem with a shortage of affordable housing - but too few are willing to grasp the nettle and say we need to build many, many more houses to meet housing need.

Some commentators have made the point that there should be council housebuilding to meet the need. Others that the planning laws should be liberalised so that private developers can build. Both of those would be a good idea, but neither should be turned into a dogma that must be observed before new homes are built. The issue is that however it is done, Britain needs to build the houses that people need to live in.

James Heartfield's book Let's Build! Why We Need Five Million New Homes in the next 10 Years is available from Amazon.

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