House of Cards

Everyone needs a home, yet finding one that will not bust the bank is a perennial problem for citizens across the UK. Whether it is to rent or to buy, the cost of basic accommodation forms a substantial part of households’ take home pay. While other developed economies suffer from similar symptoms, the problem here is particularly acute. Recent studies put the UK as the seventh most expensive out of a group of 40 industrialised nations, with over one in five renters overburdened by the cost of keeping a roof over their head. For many, the global pandemic has only increased the precariousness of their living arrangements.

Whilst the causes of this crisis are hotly contested, its persistence is undisputed. Across both large cities and rural idylls, buying is an elusive dream whilst renting remains an expensive drain on income. And over time the problem does not seem to get better, with spending on this essential item becoming increasingly unaffordable for large swathes of the population.

It is the stubbornness of this crisis that triggered this report. As we have seen over the last year, faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges the state can make bold interventions in favour of the public good. This then raises the question: why could not the same be done to make housing more affordable for all?

Because politics is the art of managing limited resources, those elected to high office must weigh-up competing demands on their time and the public purse. Yet the factors informing ministers’ judgements seems much underexplored.

This research reviews the available evidence to provide a greater understanding of potential factors influencing the UK government’s housing policy. It does so by exploring three questions:

  1. Is there a radical imbalance in access to government amongst interest groups, which could indicate ministers and their officials only hear one side of the argument?
  2. What avenues are there for potential undue influence over the development of housing policy?
  3. How meaningful are the current arrangements for providing transparency over those who access and seek to influence the government?

House of Cards

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