The housing crisis: why Ekklesia published 'Foxes Have Holes'

By Virginia Moffatt
April 17, 2016

This month Ekklesia has chosen to publish Foxes Have Holes: Christian reflections on Britain's housing need as part of its ongoing response to austerity.

Austerity is the natural end point of the neo-liberal consensus that has dominated the political landscape for so many years. This consensus has resulted in the unravelling of the post-war welfare state that provided a  welfare safety net, health care, education and housing for all. 

Over the last six years, much of Ekklesia's focus has been on welfare cuts, particularly those that have affected sick and disabled people. However, we have also been mindful of all the areas of the welfare state which have been under attack. The situation with housing has reached a critical moment, and we believe it is time to speak up about that. We are hugely grateful to Andrew Francis, the editor of the book, for suggesting the idea and for coordinating and editing all the contributions.

Housing everyone in the UK in safe, affordable, accessible accommodation has always been a challenge. But in the last twenty years we have seen a difficult problem for government mutate into a nationwide crisis. This is for a multitude of reasons across all sections of the housing sector: home ownership, private renting, council and social housing.

Housing space in the UK is among the most expensive in the world. A major problem with home ownership is that houses are no longer seen as homes, but as investments. The housing market has been further distorted by a boom in buy-to-let, and foreign investment in flats and properties that often lie empty.  As a result of this, house prices are spiralling out of control and out of reach for young people, leaving older people unable to sell their larger homes to families who need them. With repossessions on the increase, home ownership is at its lowest for 29 years.

Meanwhile, renting privately is becoming increasingly insecure. Last May, the Guardian reported that 2014 had seen the highest rate of evictions since records began. And with 11,000 families being evicted in the first quarter of that year, this trend looked set to continue. Reasons for evictions included rising rents and benefit cuts. Meanwhile, one third of private rental properties fail to reach the Decent Homes Standard; and the Housing Bill currently going through Parliament is likely to reduce tenant rights further.

Furthermore, the right to buy policy has reduced the availability of council housing stock. Alongside this, councils have been selling estates to developers, resulting in the reduction of affordable housing in local communities. Housing Associations, once seen as philanthropic organisations often operate as private companies. Extending the right to buy to Housing Associations and charging higher earning tenants more rent, will only exacerbate these problems.

And, of course, nowhere is unaffected. We launched our book in Manchester and were shocked to discover street homelessness has risen to such an extent there, that a tent city has risen on the outskirts of the city. The government is projecting that Greater Manchester will be unable to meet the demand for family housing by 2026 and today there are 120,000 people on the social housing waiting list after years of under-investment. But Manchester is just one city – such problems are being replicated up and down the country.

 A safe, affordable and accessible home should be the right of every UK citizen, but it can no longer be guaranteed in any housing sector. If we are to ensure current and future generations will have a chance of decent housing, it is time that all political parties joined forces to work out better solutions.

Ekklesia has published this book in order to contribute to this urgent debate. We hope the challenge, vision and actions that the writers lay out in Foxes Have Holes will inspire politicians and policy makers alike to develop a political consensus on these important issues. And we hope that Ekklesia supporters will find it a useful tool for taking action within our local communities.

For ordering details and review copies, please write to office@ekklesia.co.uk


© Virginia Moffatt is Chief Operating Officer of Ekklesia

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.