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Critical Excursion: The Housing Question

  • East London Exact location will be given to attendees (map)

Critical Excursion

Critical Excursion: The Housing Question | Friday 23 February

Housing has long been central to questions of social and spatial justice. The ‘housing question’ and its linkages to politics of emancipation remain as present as ever, particularly in London where the continuing onslaught of housing continues to push all but the very wealthy out of the city. This excursion cuts through this, examining how housing has been radically redrawn in the previous 150 years, in this country and beyond.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the overwhelming majority of the population in London lived in rented housing, often in sub-standard conditions at best, squalid and dangerous at worst. As we will explore on this excursion, by the end of the twentieth century, this trend had been reversed, and mortgage financed individual home ownership has dominated housing provision, accounting for 71% of all housing at its peak in 2005. Beyond being significant in numbers, individual ownership dominates our housing ideologies: what housing is and should or could be.

In the route of this excursion – from Whitechapel to the western edge of Bow – we will explore the oscillation of urban housing provision, considering its various design, forms, instigators and purposes. The walk takes us through the material manifestations of these questions, looking at examples such as:

(i)                  the philanthropic housing settlements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries;

(ii)                the rise and fall of (local) state led housing of the twentieth century, from low rise to tower block;

(iii)               the transformation of housing into a globally traded liquid asset class, underpinning the ongoing ‘housing crisis’; and

(iv)              today’s emerging ‘alternatives’ in the work of charities and non-profitable citizen led initiatives which are seeking a mode of housing provision predicated on affordability and access, which draw our attention to recent ideas concerning the ‘commons’ and ‘commoning’ and their connections to the housing question.

While the excursion takes us through a particular location – a (likely overcast) route through East London in 2018 - we hope to invite participants to explore how these questions around housing in their London manifestations compare to how housing has been dealt with in other contexts away from England. Our discussion will take into consideration housing ‘problems’ and, perhaps more importantly, the composition of housing ‘alternatives’ and what we can learn from them: squats, informal settlements and the diverse range of housing strategies that have been employed in different spaces, places and times.

To register, please fill in the form below or contact

Further  information will be sent directly to the registered participants.

Date: 23/02/2018

Time: 3PM - 6PM

Photo Credit: Christophe Verrier