2008 was the year the housing industry’s chickens finally came home to roost; the year when people stopped buying shoddy homes thrown up by speculators, and when they said no to ever-rising prices.
But look what we are left with. A housing market so dysfunctional that despite record levels of housing need, we have the retched sight of nearly a million empty homes. And policy so out of touch;that perfectly good homes are being destroyed to make way for regeneration projects that will never happen. It’s time to think again about who controls our housing.
At heart I’m an optimist. What gives me faith is that the skills of finding and building homes lie deep in the DNA of our species. Just a few generations ago we all created our own homes. Much of the world still does. But here those skills are untapped as housing has been commoditised by housebuilders, speculators and governments. Between them they have let us down. Surely the lesson of this year is that we should never again let so few people make decisions about our housing at our expense again.
Now, with little prospect of profit, many speculators are turning their back on housing altogether. This leaves a gap, and I believe a unique opportunity for you to influence future decisions about housing in your area. What better place to start than vacant property that should be homes.
My hope is that in 2009 we all become housing activists. If we do, I think there is every chance that what emerges from the wreckage will be a housing market that serves people over profits and leaves a legacy we can have pride in for a generation.