Know your place Housing wealth and inequality in Great Britain 1980-2003 and beyond

This report describes the growing inequalities in housing wealth being generated through the operation of housing markets in Great Britain. Current levels of housing wealth inequality are unprecedented and, we argue, almost insurmountable by individuals – whatever efforts they might make to improve their relative situation through, for instance, employment. Whereas a generation ago it was possible for those lucky enough not to be unemployed in 1980 to move to almost any area of the country, if not any part of any area, that is no longer the situation today. Month on month and place by place reporting of house price changes that get coverage in the media obscures the larger picture which is of a gradual trend towards ever greater levels of inequalities in housing wealth. Between 1971 and 2002 the value of homes held by the population of the United Kingdom rose 50 fold in contemporary (not constant) prices from £44 billion to £2.4 trillion. The share of national wealth held in the form of housing has almost doubled from 22.1 per cent to 42.0 per cent over this period (and that share has become more geographically polarised as we show below). Housing is the single greatest repository for wealth held by individuals in the United Kingdom. According to 2002 official figures, this wealth is almost twice as high as the financial worth of all life assurance and pension funds. More than five times as much wealth is held in the form of housing as in securities and shares and more than three times as much as in other forms of saving. The maps presented in this report show the most detailed reliable mapping of house prices and housing wealth produced for Great Britain to date for a 24 year period. Average prices and estimates of housing wealth are made for some 1,282 areas.

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