Quality homes in thriving places are crucial for tackling poverty
Yet the costs of accommodation—through homeownership and rental—have soared. In 1997, the price of a home typically cost 3.5 times average earnings, but today costs around 9.1 times. The supply of social housing has declined over the last decade, and new social housing has rental costs which are increasingly linked to the overheated market rather than local incomes. We have failed to meet our national house building target of 300,000 homes since 1969.
The social impact of this is very concerning. It is widely known that the housing crisis has made it more difficult for young people to get on the housing ladder and start a family in a home of their own. This is concerning for community life as recent CSJ research showed that areas with higher levels of owner-occupation tend to have higher levels of satisfaction among residents.
Beyond this, as we have recently highlighted, there is an even more sinister ‘hidden housing crisis’—one whose effects are felt most sharply by the most marginalised and disadvantaged in our nation. We now have 58,620 households — including 118,900 dependent children — living in Temporary Accommodation. 282,000 individuals and families were homeless or threatened with homelessness last year.
In addition, there is evidence that our local community life is declining. Despite well-publicised community efforts during the lockdowns, formal volunteering has declined over the last decade and is now at an all-time-low. The proportion of us giving to charity has fallen from 82 to 63 per cent over the last decade. CSJ polling has shown that less than 30 per cent of us think our community is free from loneliness or social isolation. Positive engagement with neighbours has been falling over the last decade, and through the pandemic, and trust in others in our community has declined.
This matters because thriving local community relationships underpin opportunity – both social and economic – enabling higher productivity and prosperity. And a sense of community built on trusted relationships between neighbours is key to helping those who are vulnerable or isolated. As our recent report Pillars of Community has shown, we need to foster security, social connection, and a sense of belonging in our local areas.
The CSJ’s Housing and Community Unit, led by Sam Bruce, is seeking to tackle these issues through research and public policy advocacy. Currently, the Unit is working on policy recommendations to improve the supply, affordability, and quality of housing—especially social housing—in England and across the UK.