Housing (un)affordability: Is social housing a moral imperative?

In the decades immediately following the Second World War, social housing played a number of crucial roles in the task of economic and civic reconstruction.

But it wasn't long, particularly in the United States and Britain, before the dream of social housing ran onto hard times. Modest, low-set terraces with small private gardens were replaced by hulking brick cuboids in the U.S. and raw-concrete tower blocks in the UK - of which Grenfell Tower is a notorious example. These inhospitable, often inhumane spaces soon became seedbeds of illicit activity, dysfunction and desperation. Not only did this destroy the sense of solidarity and common care that social housing was meant to foster, it stigmatised social housing itself.

In a time of widening inequality, when housing is for so many out of reach due to brazen rent-seeking and mercenary forms of investment, two urgent questions present themselves: Is the presumption of universal home-ownership a thing of the past? Is it time to reclaim social housing as a moral imperative? If so, will this not simply further entrench the uneven distribution of capital? Can social housing be stripped of both its stigma and its anti-social connotations?

Listen to A/Professor Bec Bentley, Scott Stephens and Waleed Aly discuss the complexities of social housing, policy and and home ownership here