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Rescuing the Housing Market

Tuesday 31 March 2009, 6.30-8.30pm The British Academy, 10 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1

A public discussion that looks beyond the ‘credit crunch’, towards more imaginative ways of sharing the benefits and mitigating the risks of volatile housing markets.

Policy makers, housing providers, mortgage lenders and home-occupiers all have an interest in stabilizing housing markets, to ensure the accessibility, affordability and sustainability of all tenure sectors.

To this end, in recent months, all eyes have been on the credit crisis: on the risks to lenders and borrowers of mortgage default, on the social as well as economic costs of home repossession, and on the use of subsidies to bail out the banks and meet rehousing needs. Possible solutions include boosting traditional (social and private) insurances and perhaps a wholesale rekindling of the public rented sector.

But credit risks are only half the housing problem, and traditional solutions may not be enough.

The housing slow-down also highlights the investment risks that home-owners are exposed to. These are underlined by the fact that so many households are relying on the wealth in their home as an asset base for welfare. But there is no effective protection against price and liquidity risks in housing markets, even though they may affect at least half the nation’s poor.

So does the UK need home equity insurance? Should people hold less of their wealth in their homes? Could shared ownership be the key to sustainable housing futures? Are there other ways of managing housing resources more effectively? What should governments do next? Is there any role for financial markets? These questions may hold the key to designing more inclusive, affordable, perhaps ‘tenure neutral’ styles of housing provision. The answers will be debated by the panel.


Convenor and chair: Professor Susan J Smith FBA, Institute of Advanced Study, University of Durham

Professor Christine Whitehead OBE, London School of Economics & University of Cambridge

Professor Gavin Wood, RMIT University, Melbourne

Peter Sceats, Tradition Property

Discussant: Mark Stephens, Glasgow University