Dwelling on it

Think tank: Social Market Foundation

Author(s): Jamie Gollings

March 13, 2024

This report from UK think tank the Social Market Foundation provides an overview of the scale of the housing crisis in the English speaking world.

Countries across the English-speaking world are wracked by a housing crisis that is pushing the matter firmly up politicians’ agendas.

This introductory paper – the first of a series of Social Market Foundation reports on addressing the problem of housing – provides an overview of the scale of the crisis in homeownership, private renting, social housing and homelessness across the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Homeownership rates in Britain have fallen in recent years due to rising house prices and tougher credit conditions, but politicians should be cautious about the impact that increasing supply can have on the affordability of housing. Renters across the anglosphere have experienced rising costs, shrinking property sizes, increasing overcrowding and higher instability than other tenures.

While the UK has one of the biggest social housing stocks in the world, it has shrunk considerably due to the ‘right to buy’ policy, resulting in proportionately longer social housing waiting lists than elsewhere in the anglosphere. And although data on homelessness is difficult to compare across countries, it appears to be higher in the English-speaking world than elsewhere.

While the UK’s housing problems – in particular the social housing waiting list, level of homelessness and housing costs – are bad, they are in line with other anglosphere countries like Canada and Australia, and likely less bad than New Zealand’s. The UK has much to learn from housing policy successes and failures across the anglosphere.