It would take a large tome rather than a blog to do justice to this subject. I am just going to touch on a tiny part of it.
Firstly, of course in the UK, we are much luckier than swathes of the world. My daughter and I see a small part of the global challenge from opposite ends of the earth; she is in Chile working for Habitat for Humanity www.nuestroshijosvuelvenacasa.cl , a global housing charity, and I sit on the Board of the housing association and charity, Peabody, in London.
In London, the population has been growing for many years, and now to keep up with the expected million more people in the next decade or so, we would need to build 50,000 homes per year instead of the 20,000 we are actually building.
That mismatch between demand and supply creates the tension of who gets housed in the housing that is available. What happens in practice is that the well off can afford housing, and some people in need on the local authority housing lists get access to social housing. Leaving the “squeezed middle” – the waiters, the office cleaners, the PAs, the bank clerks, the web designers, the actors, the academics all struggling to find housing.
There are no easy answers. Government needs to sell off unused land and property for housing development – but typically local residents never want more housing next door to them.
One of the more interesting developments at Peabody, is that the new east/west rail link, Crossrail, provides the opportunity to regenerate Thamesmead. This is an area which has suffered from being a backwater (downstream from the O2), badly connected to the rest of London. Crossrail will have a station at Abbey Wood, making the area more attractive to live in and increasing land values, thus providing the opportunity to invest in the whole area. It all takes a long time, but over a 20 year period I hope the combination of physical intervention and community investment will make a difference, and Thamesmead will be a place people actively want to live in rather than an area many ignore.