The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The UK’s Housing And Immigration Crisis In Charts

Here’s the TLDR: the UK has a housing crisis because it is bringing in way more immigrants than usual and not building way more housing.

(Most of the charts from Simulcrax.)

For a long time Britain was building more housing than it had population increase. This was good, because as anyone who visited England in the 50s or 60s will tell you, it didn’t start with an excess.But starting around 2000AD it increased immigration and didn’t increase how much housing it was building, and after a while that caught up.

The chart only goes till 2019, though. Let’s see what happened afterwards.


Wow. That’s pretty ugly, and hey, it happened under the anti-immigrant Conservative party, and after Brexit, which was supposed to reduce immigration. Anyone wonder why Reform is challenging the Conservatives for second party status?

Now let’s be clear: immigration can be good, bad or mixed. If your economy is doing really well, you have low inequality and high wages and not enough workers and an economy which makes most of what you need domestically, then immigration is going to be good: the immigrants will get good jobs, increase demand and the economy will expand. But if you’ve gotten rid of your industry, have high inequality and an economy which is sucking wind then immigration is going to take jobs from natives and keep wages lower. And if you aren’t building enough housing and don’t do something about that, it’s going to raise housing prices, especially at the bottom and middle, which is going to hurt people.

The people it will hurt most, of course, are:

The chart pretty much speaks for itself. Let’s look at one more chart:
Ouch. I mean, it’s not like the situation is good in the US, is it?

Let’s be clear about what’s happening: it’s not that the UK can’t reduce immigration, it can, especially post-Brexit. Like Canada, however, it wants to increase GDP and keep wages low, so it’s bringing in as many people as it can, as deliberate government policy and doing so, without a booming economy, is hurting people who already live in Britain.

You don’t have to be racist or xenophobic to believe, accurately, that too much immigration is bad if there isn’t enough housing and jobs to absorb the immigrants. Problem is, given how people are, they will blame the immigrants and become racist and xenophobic, when the correct response is to hate the government and ruling class.

Britain, having deliberately de-industrialized, especially since Thatcher, can’t absorb this many people without causing extreme harm to people already living in Britain, especially if the government doesn’t move, massively, to social housing. People who want less immigration are correct, the only way to absorb this sort of influx without harm would be an entirely different set of government policies, even then, the immigration surge wouldn’t make sense until the policies take effect.

Unfortunately the only chance of pursuing anything like those policies was to elect Corbyn, and that chance has passed.

The sun always sets, and now it sets on Britain.

Addendum: Stumbled on this after writing the article.

He continues: “According to the Government’s own methodology, we needed to expand the housing stock by around 3.4 million homes over the last decade: 2.2 million to meet existing housing pressures, and 1.2 million to cope with net migration. We increased the number of homes by only 2.1 million.”

So, without immigration, they’d only be down 100,000 over the last twent years, rather than 1.3 million.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 30 2024


Let’s Talk About Joe Biden


  1. bruce wilder

    A couple of addendums: outside London and the Southeast, England is poor, often very poor.

    England (not the U.K. as a whole, but specifically England) has become the most densely populated large country in Europe, more densely populated than the Netherlands or even the Swiss plateau.

  2. Great info, thanks. Here in Ireland, we have similar factors at play, would love to have seen our tiny island on the graph, some diffs from UK, but more similarities in terms of our rotten rentier government.

    I wonder if the slight uptick in young home ownership in the UK/US is explained by the beginning of the older boomer demographic dieoff? Parents dying and their children inheriting, maybe? Hard to explain otherwise, as there sure hasn’t been a change in policy for the better there.

  3. Bruce, regarding England and density, I live in the Mayo/Roscommon/Sligo region, and you’d be amazed by how many English accents you hear around here. I was not expecting that when I moved back home from the US 2 years ago.

  4. Jan Wiklund

    In a way England looks like in the 1930s – rentier capitalism, rich people who “had such a thick padding between themselves and the world that they didn’t need to know anything” (George Orwell), and business owners who thought it more important to stay in absolute power than to modernize (Alfred D Chandler). It changed with the war, they had to if they wanted to survive.

    The difference, probably, is that it’s now about the whole North Atlantic world.

  5. Mark Pontin

    Ian W. wrote: ‘(The UK) wants to increase GDP and keep wages low, so it’s bringing in as many people as it can, as deliberate government policy and doing so, without a booming economy, is hurting people who already live in Britain.’

    Presumably, you’ve read James C. Scott and, particularly, ‘Against the Grain,’ where he explores the rise of sedentism and the early city states, and shows that life for most domesticated post-Paleolithic peoples was substantially worse than for hunter-gatherer tribals.

    The single advantage it reliably provided was the capability to field larger populations on the battlefield and in the grain fields, slave mines, etc. (with conquests on the battlefields bringing more slaves to work those latter). Thus, the walls of early city states, and even of a state entity like China, with its Great Wall, were as much to *keep in* as large a population of peons as possible, who would then produce as big a surplus as possible for a small elite, as for defense.

    Not much has changed, therefore, for all that it’s dressed now in incantations about ‘GDP.’

    Bruce W: ‘…outside London and the Southeast, England is poor, often very poor.’

    Talking of city states, yes, the contrast is extraordinary.

    Outside of London (and Manchester and some other locations) all these English towns exist that two-hundred years ago during the Industrial Revolution had extensive manufacturing, whereas now employment-wise they’re lucky if they have an Aldi warehouse or some such. Services and labor in them can cost a quarter of their equivalent in London — no need to go to Eastern Europe — and the town centers are usually shopping centers closed to traffic .

    These town centers retain their traditional English architecture and are peaceful in a way that their equivalents in the US South and the ‘Third World’ wouldn’t be. But they’re about as poor, with the ‘Third World’ impression reinforced by the large populations of now-native black and brown people either speaking with working-class UK accents and being absorbed among the indigenous whites or, alternatively, in the case of Muslims from the Asian sub-continent, who drive the taxis, staying apart in their communities.

    Whereas in London has become far wealthier (with Dickensian contrasts) — far more so than when I was a kid here in the 1960s. Admittedly, I’m located in Notting Hill/Kensington, but it seems possible to me that despite Brexit it may be the richest city in the world, with amazing public transport and parks and resources (even now 20 percent of its housing remains social housing, forex).

    This is the power of the finance industry, of course. London does more daily foreign exchange transactions than the next three largest global centers — New York, Singapore, and Hong Kong — combined. Indeed, for instance, far more dollars get traded through the City every day than through Wall Street.

    How’s this possible? It’s possible because the City (with its offshore annexes like the Caymans) pulled off a remarkable trick —

    So when you hear that the US dollar is the global reserve currency, what you’re not hearing is that something like 93-95 percent of dollars traded worldwide are *not* US dollars controlled by the Fed. They’re ‘eurodollars’ — arguably, a currency no more ‘real’ than Bitcoin — which were originally created by London banks on the basis of underlying US dollars that those banks first came to hold because they provided tax havens to US citizens and corporations in the 1950s.

    Likewise, London is now the biggest renminbi trading center outside China. Thus —

    Of course, without the money the finance industry in London brings in, the UK as a whole is f***ked. Starmer seems to understand this; Corbyn didn’t.

    There are some other semi-bright indicators. As you’ve noted, the Biden administration’s play at reindustrialization in the US, with the IRA, won’t overcome the predatory high costs of stateside healthcare, housing, and everything else that US corporations and oligarchs impose. This in turns means there’s plenty more of a race to the bottom that US employers can run via offshoring.

    And as it happens, a more literate, technical, English-speaking workforce is now available to those employers for half the price. Exports of UK services to the US brought in close to $90 billion for the U.K. in the first nine months of 2023 —

    ‘The British Are Coming for Your White-Collar Job’

    ‘…the U.K.’s cost advantage has collided with the rise in remote work to allow high-skilled jobs—software developers, consultants, lawyers, film producers—to be done by people in Britain…’“In the old models of outsourcing you’d give the outsourcing company the boring work … the new breed of outsourcing … is cheaper but also often creative … You might still give your team in Hyderabad basic Python code. In the U.K. you might give them AI.”

    ‘The average salary for a back end software developer in the U.S. is near $130,000, though closer to $175,000 in cities such as San Francisco and New York … In the U.K., a developer’s average salary is about $66,000.’

    Finally, you write: “Unfortunately the only chance of pursuing anything like those policies was to elect Corbyn, and that chance has passed.”

    I’m sorry, Ian. Corbyn is a nice man, but he’s clueless as the Tories about all the above, and particularly about the UK’s existential dependence of the finance industry. He’s equally clueless about the need to regulate immigration into the UK — as you’ve accurately diagnosed here — and has and had nothing sensible to offer on that score, only worthless platitudes. Am I unfair? Check out Corbyn’s own words in an op-ed on the subject —

    ‘Pitting British workers against migrant workers fragments an otherwise united and powerful working-class, to the benefit of those who exploit them. And dividing skilled workers from “unskilled” workers legitimises harsh – and often inhumane – restrictions on those who do not meet the state’s arbitrary criteria. There is no such thing as unskilled labour – only labour that is undervalued, underappreciated and underpaid.’

    Useless platitudes. Which is how the Establishment were so easily able to dustbin Corbyn. I would stop romanticizing him.

  6. Daniil Adamov

    “Problem is, given how people are, they will blame the immigrants and become racist and xenophobic, when the correct response is to hate the government and ruling class.”

    I gather that a lot of British people hate the immigrants, the government and the ruling class alike. Hence Farage.

  7. Purple Library Guy

    @Mark Pontin The financial sector in Britain is huge, sure. Or rather, the financial sector in the City of London. But it doesn’t trickle down much further than that; some of it somewhat energizes the rest of London, or at least some of the rest of London.

    But it’s a crappy thing to base the whole country’s economy on. The orientation towards finance does more harm than good to most Britons. The thing about finance is, it’s great for the rich because it has big profits but doesn’t require much capital equipment or many employees, so they can keep all those profits for themselves. It’s terrible for the general economy for exactly the same reasons. Every dollar of financial sector activity, at least above a relatively small floor required to service the rest of the economy, generates far less actual economic activity or salaries for people than a dollar in pretty much any other sector. And it doesn’t actually result in anything useful; if you have a manufacturing sector they manufacture things, and then at a minimum you have the things; if you have a farming sector they make food, and then even if everything goes wrong at least you have the food. The financial sector makes dollars for billionaires–there is no product.

    Orientation towards the financial sector seems like not too terrible an idea in (parts of) London, but it’s worse than useless for every single other part of England (and Scotland, and Wales). Heck, even in London, big though the financial sector is in transactions, I bet there’s a lot more people actually employed because of tourism.

    So no, I don’t think Corbyn should have “gotten” the importance of the financial sector, because its importance is in fact negative. Except for the rich guys in The City.

  8. Failed Scholar

    Immigration, like so much else in modern Western society, is just another weapon that our elites use against us. Ian’s article is specific to the UK, but as he mentions, this same GeeeeeDeeeeePeeeee Uber Alles ‘strategy’ is being employed in Canada and elsewhere in the world controlled by these lunatic Western ShitLibs and their hangers on. Just another fucking scam. In the UK the scam is now clear as day given how the ‘Conservative’ party lied about doing something about this for fourteen(!) years, hell they didn’t just lie, they turned around and jacked up the numbers into the stratosphere so their precious GeeeDeeePeee can keep going up (for them). Amazing. Is ‘traitor’ a strong enough word to describe this kind of fuckery? I’m not sure.

    It’s even more insane when one takes even the most cursory look at UK society and environment. As Bruce Wilder notes above, England is already the most densely populated large country in Europe, and it isn’t as if Europe is famously sparsely populated or something either. The UK apparently imports a stunning 46% of their food supplies ( ). Just these two metrics alone would spook any normal person about the wisdom of radically increasing the UK’s population from its already overpopulated levels, but nah, the unquestioning orthodoxy of our times is the vital need to import bajillions of immigrants per year, forever.

    The funniest thing to me is how the Conservatives were willing to risk a complete wipeout to maintain their all important bajillion immigration policy. Labour I’m sure will be the exact same, with maybe a few extra LGBTQ+%$@#& platitudes thrown in (“Look how progressive we are!”); as Galloway so eloquently put it, ‘two cheeks of the same backside’. Zero seats for both of them.

  9. different clue

    Is there a way for anti-immigrationists to short circuit the default-run to racism, ethnism, religionism, etc. while opposing population-raising immigration?

    Perhaps there is a simple-to-say version of the following: People are a good thing. Immigrants are people which means immigrants are a good thing. Too many people is too much of a good thing. The more people there are, the more we have to share. The more we have to share, the less we get to have. Less people, please, starting with less immigrants or none at all.

    All nicely race-neutral, ethneutral, religioneutral, etc. Honest collective social selfishness, honestly expressed, without the need to “excuse” it with racial, ethnic, religious, etc. “excuses”.

  10. Immigration provides the masses with a shiny emotionally charged distraction so the oligarch’s can loot and pillage without much opposition.

    There is an easy way to tell if a populist party is actually populist or just oligarch lackies. Do they support addressing the fundamental structural problems or just harp on the distractions?

  11. Revelo

    Britain’s problem is that it is as resource poor as Japan and Singapore but has lost its manufacturing, so now it must rely on export of services alone (including finance) to pay for needed imports. Huge numbers of British workers who would be employable in a manufacturing economy are unemployable in a modern service economy, especially lower class men with good aptitude for physical labor but poor aptitude for intellectual labor (their women counterparts are still employable as low tier service workers like waitress, hotel room cleaners, etc). Something like 30% of working age British population is approaching status of useless eaters, plus pensioners are inherently useless eaters and growing in numbers. This is a formula for national bankruptcy.

    Easiest way to kick the can down the road is bring i n enough high skill service workers (including finance) to pay for all these useless eaters, so that’s what Britain has done. Lack of housing is side effect rather than intentional, but since it benefits the rentier elite, they don’t try to mitigate this side effect.

    Long-term term solution to excess useless eaters would be gradually reduce percentage of useless eaters by bringing back some manufacturing to employ the better cases, reducing breeding by the hopeless bottom tier, redesigning society so that the elderly continue to work at jobs suitable for old people (watching over young children, etc), however these are all multiple decade changes., not quick fixes.

    Solving the housing problem could be done much more quickly by simply building huge numbers of high rises on subway lines of London suburbs. Not sure what obstacle is stopping that, other than that rentier elite are happy with current situation.

  12. Purple Library Guy

    @Revelo I’d say if you’re going to get all anti-science eugenicist and talk about “useless eaters”, it would be the hopeless TOP tier that should stop breeding.

  13. Willy

    I’d settle for the days when paranoid stoner fears of “la migra” knocking at the door was a Cheech and Chong staple. With project 2025 enabled, they’d be fearing the homeless police. Or maybe having the cops taking their dope away as a payoff. Probably get less laughs though. Not sure what the Brit equivalent was. The Ministry of Silly Walks?

  14. bruce wilder


    Is there a way for anti-immigrationists to short circuit the default-run to racism, ethnism, religionism, etc. while opposing population-raising immigration?


    Not because you have to be a glass bowl to be opposed to unregulated, unlimited immigration, but . . . this is critical, pay attention to who has agency . . . those who want to be the virtuous, tolerant champions of cosmopolitan values including free movement need you, an anti-immigrationist for lack of a better term, to be a racist glass bowl, in large part to justify not considering your actual concerns and arguments.

    Finding ways to not acknowledge the legitimacy of concerns, interests and values that make political compromise and negotiation possible is a time-political tactic. It has been assigned as homework by the capitalist class to the professional-managerial class. That assignment is the political strategy of those globalists who want high rates of immigration for a range of reasons summing to benefits to themselves.

  15. mago

    “the rentier elite are happy with current situation “
    Yes, they are. It works for them.
    And they’ll keep it sailing as long as it floats before descending to who knows where upon their dying, although their legacies will likely chase them from one hell realm to another.

    London, Paris, Tokyo, NYC and DC, this cannot endure.
    Endure what? Environmental, social, cultural and social collapse?
    Already here and accelerating.
    Jolly good England has been a long time delivery system for chaos, mayhem and murder.
    (They produced a few good spin off rock bands as well. Food sucks except for ethnic variety.)
    Uh, here’s to good music, good food and a good time.
    Pura vida!
    May all sentient beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness. . .

  16. bruce wilder

    Plg: it’s a crappy thing to base the whole country’s economy on. The orientation towards finance does more harm than good to most Britons.

    In so many ways! The last time I was in London, the American Candy Store was ubiquitous — I saw them everywhere. What a joke!

  17. jrs

    The problem with immigration as an issue is that it sucks all the oxygen out of the room. People get so emotional about it, that they are willing to simply throw away everything else including issues that actually have a much larger effect on their life.

    It leads to the rise of the right, but the right in most of the anglosphere seems basically terrible on everything else, regardless of whether or not one agrees with them on immigration. The right a few other places may be terrible on MOST other things, but at times has had social democratic influences.

  18. Jan Wiklund

    Daniil Adamov July 2: Farage is as ruling class as anyone. He’s an old banker.

    He’s not not the only populist politician with roots in the FIRE sector: Trump, Berlusconi, Erdogan, Taksin – they all seem to come from there. Probably it’s because it’s there the money are.

  19. Carborundum

    One can make a case for a correlation in population increase and decrease in the rate of homeownership among the young, but the rate of living rough is completely out of sequence with these. (If the UK situation is anything like ours there will be a correlation with in-migration, but it will be much more recent [post-pandemic] and acute.) What goes un-noted in the decline in home ownership depicted is that older generations see much, much less significant declines.

    Bottom line, immigration is *a* factor, but far from the only one and not in itself determinative. My not so humble, but buttressed by watching this up close and personal, opinion is that policy classes (both Canada and the UK) that view the monetary supply as the tool of choice and are uniquely clueless about total factor productivity are much more the root cause.

  20. Colin Haller

    @Purple Library Guy thank you for your rebuttal of Mark Pontin’s nonsense claims about the “value” of the FIRE sector, thus saving the rest of us the trouble — it’s straight up parasitical.

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