UCL Grand Challenges


Re-thinking Housing

Investigating the housing crisis in the UK.

A residential housing estate shown from above

1 August 2018


Grant: Grand Challenges Small Grants
Year awarded: 2016-17
Amount awarded: £3,695


  • Professor Nick Gallent, Bartlett School of Planning, Faculty of the Built Environment
  • Dr Neil May, Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, The Bartlett
  • Dan Durrant, Bartlett School of Planning, Faculty of the Built Environment


Housing in the UK is the classic 'wicked problem': the manifest outcome of an incredibly complex set of inputs and circumstances - ranging from basic issues of supply and demand, through questions of taxation, credit availability, investment motive and the flow of footloose global capital - which will not be eased through any single action.  The real crisis is perhaps the government's determination to boil the problem down into the simple need to build more houses, thereafter providing aspiring owners with savings schemes designed to pump more money into bricks and mortar.

The starting point of the work was a challenge to the orthodoxy that supply-side measures, in short simply building more houses, can solve the current housing crisis. The analysis revealed that in focusing on supply the demand side of the equation often gets lost. The initiative produced a journal paper that examines the emphasis on supply-side measures to England's housing crisis against the background of increasing demand-side pressures due the financialisation of housing, credit liberalisation and money creation all of which has placed upward pressure on house prices.

The project team's commentary examined the need to tackle the demand side of the housing crisis, instead of emphasis on supply-side solutions to the housing crisis. The collaboration has also led to a subsequent book publication and follow on grant funding.

UCL's Grand Challenge of Sustainable Cities, in collaboration with UCL Public Policy, also commissioned a number of prominent UCL academics to present the latest thinking on the issue. 

Image credit: Photo by David McBee