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Economics Senior Lecturer advises on hard-hitting Britain’s Housing Crisis: What went wrong?

A dour looking Michael Gove, Conservative Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister, facing the camera during an interview for the series.

Senior Lecturer in Economics Dr Martin Higginson was one of the academic consultants for OU/BBC co-production Britain’s Housing Crisis: What went wrong? broadcast over two weeks from 17 October on BBC Two at 21:00 and available on iPlayer.

The series has no narrator, instead using face-to-camera interviews with politicians and other key decision makers and influencers to tell the story of the housing crisis.

Britain’s housing market is broken – but it didn’t have to be. For decades, politicians sold the dream of home ownership. However, for millions of people, the reality is very different. People struggle to buy, and those lucky enough to own face mortgage repayments among the highest in history. A priced-out generation contends with record rents, while ‘affordable’ housing feels anything but affordable.

In the first episode, key figures from government, finance and campaigning reveal the roots of the housing crisis, and whose decisions led Britain to the current situation, exploring who really got rich during these years – and why it took the government so long to realise there were also losers. In the boom before the financial crisis, when investors raced first-time buyers to snap up property, the average British home doubles in price in just 5 years. After the crisis, QE and the ‘cocaine’ of ‘Help to Buy’ ensured prices kept rising. The second episode explores how, in an ugly Brexit campaign, both sides tried to capitalise on housing, while campaigners feared that plans for a mass sell-off of social housing could be catastrophic. A succession of scandals broke around new-build homes and shocking conditions in the social sector, followed by political and economic turmoil sending interest rates soaring.

One of the academic consultants for the series, Dr Martin Higginson is researching better methods to improve financial capability, to help people develop greater confidence in making personal financial decisions and, in turn, improving financial well-being.

“As one of the academics involved in helping shape the content of Britain’s Housing Crisis, I wanted to really make sure the issue of housing is contextualised as one that has evolved over many years, contrasting the rhetoric of governments about the dream of owning a home and the reality for many that such an aspiration is beyond their own realities. For many they are left with living in barely affordable rented accommodation that is often poorly maintained.

“I am currently doing some research around the money challenges of Gen Z (18-25 year olds), and our findings from focus groups reinforce that, for many young adults, the mismatch between the words of politicians to own your own home and their current financial predicaments leads to both financial anxiety, and an acceptance that owning a home is not for them. All they want is somewhere decent and affordable to live.”

Explore exclusive interviews and additional content, as well as more about the research of the academic consultants Martin Higginson and Michael Oliver, at OU Connect.

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