In recent years, the United Kingdom has felt the squeeze of the global recession. Nowhere has this been more serious than in the housing sector. In the UK, homelessness is reaching unprecedented levels. It’s a real crisis. As foreign investors and corporations enter the housing market, prices are going up and out of the reach of the average Briton.
For generations, Britain’s council housing system ensured that the working classes had homes. Council houses were owned by local councils and supported by the council tax. Under Margaret Thatcher, residents obtained the right to buy their homes. However, in the post-Thatcher era, real estate has come to be seen less as home, and more as an investment.
Now, it’s common for people to flip these former social housing buildings. Many former council houses are owned by corporations today. At the same time, as a result of EU membership, Britain has seen an uptick in immigration. People from Eastern Europe in search of a better life have driven demand for housing up. This means that landlords can charge higher rents than ever before, even for dilapidated buildings.
Spending more on housing means that people see a shortfall in other areas. There are more people experiencing food poverty in the UK than in previous years, too. Among them are many families with small children. This has caused a great deal of political debate in the UK.
The Conservative government of Theresa May has sought to cut benefits and keep wages low. Much as she initiated housing reform, Margaret Thatcher also worked to level the unions. Today, working-class people earn less and have less job security than their parents and grandparents did. There has been lots of agitation on the Left end of the spectrum seeking to address this.
As a result of cuts to benefits and insecure work in the form of zero-hour contracts, the need for charity has been ever more pressing. Over four million households are currently reliant on food banks. These kind of numbers are seen by many, both conservative and liberal, as a disgrace.
The uptick in homelessness and food insecurity is shocking. However, it’s possible that these numbers may finally drive politicians to find a solution. Cooperation is needed for this sharply divided society to reach equilibrium once again.