Housing shortages are not just a domestic problem

Today’s Guardian includes a report on the housing crisis in Europe. This shows that the problems of which we are all too well aware, particularly in London – too little housing at too-high prices – are not restricted to this country. 

On average in the EU, housing represnts more than 40% of household income for 11/4% of households. Although London apparently has the worst house to income ratio of eight major EU capitals, on the measure above we are only just above average. It is not perhaps surprising that disfunctional Greece has more than two-fifths of households in ‘housing poverty’. What will be more surprising to many is that Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands all fare worse than we do. And throughout Europe, the number of young people living with their parents is at an all-time high.

Claire Bennie, the architect who for years was development director at Peabody, wrote a carefully considered essay for NLA on London’s housing crisis. She also visited numerous housing developments throughout Europe which she has detailed on a blog. While she is by no means uncritical, she looks with approbation at different ways of tackling demand. Bennie is not naive enough to think that problems of demand and growing populations are confined to the UK. Still it is sobering to realise that however intelligently other countries tackle their housing issues, the gains may be realisable in terms of quality but they are still not meeting the need for quantity. 

We, in the UK, are not alone in our housing problems. But rather than taking comfort from that, we should realise that all this tells us is that our problems are harder to sort than we may have thought previously.

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