Liberating the Market or Creating a Crisis?

Housing between Liberalism and Control
Housing during the Thatcher Years, 1979–90
By Nick Bullock

The article offers a brief summary of housing policy under Margaret Thatcher’s three Tory governments that span the years 1979-1990. It argues, first, that these policies are of more than local interest as they represent the first impact of Neo-Liberal ideas on housing policy in a major Western state, and in one where a social democratic consensus, supported by the two major parties, had until then shaped social and economic policy. Second, the article argues that it was housing rather than other major fields of social policy like education or health that was most radically transformed by these new ideas. Opening with a summary of the new Thatcherite ideology, the paper charts the development of policy under her three administrations and concludes that, despite the reversal of some of her policies under the next Tory government under Major, the consequences at the time - and since – of her policies left Britain less equal and the less affluent less well housed. By eroding Britain’s social housing sector and deregulating both the public and private sector her policies have greatly reduced the supply of affordable housing and increased the number of homeless and those living in grossly inadequate circumstances.

Go to the article on