Leading Articles Housing
With evidence of a housing crisis mounting on an almost daily basis, Britain's chronic lack of affordable, good-quality homes is threatening to become a defining issue for this government and the next.
The latest assessment of the situation, reported in this newspaper today, makes grim reading. Not only are the conditions in the UK among the worst in Western Europe, but poor housing is adding an extra 7bn to the nation's annual bills, thanks to the extra burden on social services, the NHS and the education system.
The problem is far from new. Successive governments over three decades have presided over a national housing policy which has been striking for its lack of coherence. But it is only now - as long- unaddressed concerns from ballooning property prices to stalemate debates about planning laws come together - that the storm is threatening to break. Worryingly, there is little sign that politicians of any party have comprehensive answers.
Tempers are already fraying. Recent debates about squatting have seen, on one side, the Government mooting plans to criminalise the offence of taking over someone else's empty home; while, on the other, a judge maintains squatters perform a service to society by putting empty properties back into use.
Then there is the fracas over planning, with the National Trust warning that the Government's proposed reforms are "fundamentally wrong", while the relevant minister, Greg Clark, branded the charity's intervention as "nihilistic selfishness".
Behind the emotion is the fact that …