The direction of social housing policy since 1979 has been gradually to remove the state from the business of building houses, and now gradually to remove the state from the business of subsidising rent. You can imagine free marketeers believing the market can house the poor in decent comfort without the better-off being forced to chip in, although there is no evidence that it can. This is the benign view of the Thatcherites’ motive. But it is easier to believe that the actual intention – not formally designed in some conspiratorial way, and never openly described as such – is to demonetise that part of general taxation on the well-off that goes towards evening things out for the poor and replacing it with a tax in kind, a tax on conscience. To permit the gradual re-emergence of slums, in other words, in order to keep income and corporation tax low, and to make the threat to the well-off an easily ignored threat to their conscience, rather than to their wealth. To settle for history as wheel rather than ascent, in which it will eventually be time for Dickens to come around again.
This is a proper long read (I mean, 13468 words) on Britain’s housing crisis with some disconcerting parallels to what has happened in mainland Europe (although perhaps to a lesser degree). The possibility of the reemergence of slums simply boggles my mind.