House prices continue to rise, incomes stagnate, and the supply of new affordable homes has fallen by 26% since 2011. We confront these grim figures everyday. What is most disturbing is how these statistics feed into the idea that spiralling house prices, an increased number of tenants trapped in the ramshackle private rented sector and poor quality homes are inevitable. Homes are understood in financial terms, making possible solutions inaccessible.
Attempts to assert the value of houses as homes beyond their value as property are starting to gain more traction. The Focus E15 mothers are a great example of this – a group of young working class women struggling against the indifferent market that pushes them out of their communities, even as homes remain empty. Their protest succeeded in bringing this phenomenon to the forefront of the housing debate. High house prices do not just lock people out of the market, they rip neighbourhoods apart.
Since 2010, London has been host to the creation of ten times more private sector jobs than any other British city. Given a relatively fixed supply of homes, it’s hard to see where all these new workers live. Housing stock mutates to serve new purposes; houses are split into flats and extensions are built into gardens. Though equally, council blocks designed for families effectively become student halls and a townhouse in Kensington is left empty, now a financial instrument.
How can we capture these wide ranging consequences of the broken market? Currently case studies presented to us in the media are one of the few ways we can access the social, emotional and personal manifestations of the crisis. Part of what made the E15 mothers so inspiring was their ability to reject this route, and join together to fight their cause and produce a valuable message.
Statistics can help to prove that these are not isolated instances, but are so often framed in financial terms. London Mapper bucks this understanding by looking to different criteria for its maps and data. For instance, one map features the number of people per dwelling from 2001 - 2011. At once the paradoxical process of central London hollowing out, even as people continue to pour into the city to work is made visible.
When the tenants of the Heygate estate in Elephant and Castle were ‘decanted’, the location of their new homes were recorded, presenting a stark visual image of a fragmented neighborhood. It is worth remembering that this data comes from 2007-2009, a time when there was still talk of housing market ‘recovery’. These sorts of statistics are just as valuable as any complex house price indices, but are driven by different motives.
Your stories are important to the PricedOut campaign, and help to build a compelling body of evidence that reasserts the value of houses as homes not merely property. Please share your experiences of the housing crisis with us.