Riding the Sufficiency Wave: Redefining Housing Policies

It is no secret that housing in the UK presents a persistent and formidable challenge in terms of public policy. However, the current strategies being pursued by policymakers are falling short in addressing the issues of inequality and carbon emissions. Rather than fixating on building more homes, experts Charlotte Rogers and Ian Gough argue that governments should focus on innovative policies that optimize the use of existing housing stock.

The housing market, as it stands, prioritizes the generation of capital for homeowners, disregarding the fundamental needs of people. Consequently, low-income households are finding it increasingly difficult to secure suitable housing. The prevailing emphasis on increasing the quantity of housing, without considering quality or tenure, has done little to alleviate the burdens faced by disadvantaged families.

Furthermore, this approach does not contribute to the pressing environmental objective of decarbonizing the housing sector. Housing is responsible for a staggering 17% of all CO2 emissions in the UK. Even energy-efficient new builds come with high material and embodied carbon costs, failing to address the inadequacy and inefficiency of the existing housing stock.

The solution lies in a paradigm shift towards the existing housing stock and the adoption of innovative policies focused on redistribution, reutilization, and efficiency. Retrofitting the existing stock is a crucial step that will have more immediate and extensive impacts on emissions than the construction of new energy-efficient housing. By subsidizing this process, we can reduce energy costs for the less privileged and make homes easier to heat.

Contrary to popular belief, our research reveals that there is a surplus of underutilized housing. More than one-third of households possess two or more bedrooms above the national standard, with a quarter enjoying more than double the recommended space. This excess housing not only exacerbates inequality but also contributes significantly to environmental harm, accounting for one-seventh of total housing emissions.

To tackle these interconnected social and environmental crises, we must embrace a sufficiency approach that challenges the norms of production and consumption. This strategy recognizes the injustice of burdening the less fortunate with the task of decarbonization while the wealthy indulge in luxury consumption. Sufficiency necessitates a long and complex process of transformation, starting with addressing excessive personal wealth and luxury consumption.

To put this sufficiency approach into action, we need policy reforms that go beyond taxation and regulation. These reforms should include radical changes to housing taxation and pricing, such as progressive property or land taxes and the regulation of second homes and excess housing. Additionally, we should focus on better matching housing stock to households’ needs while incentivizing downsizing for elderly homeowners.

The rise in single-person households also calls for alternative tenure arrangements like co-living and house-sharing, which can foster a sense of community and reduce the environmental impact of isolated living. Lastly, prioritizing social renting over buying in new construction projects can ensure fairer access to housing.

In conclusion, it is time to rethink our approach to housing policies. By maximizing the potential of existing housing stock and adopting sufficiency-oriented measures, we can address both the social inequalities and environmental concerns that plague the current housing system. It is through such transformative strategies that we can pave the way for the well-being of both our people and our planet.


1. Qual è la sfida principale nel settore dell’edilizia nel Regno Unito?
La sfida principale nel settore dell’edilizia nel Regno Unito è rappresentata dalla mancanza di politiche che affrontino in modo efficace le questioni dell’ineguaglianza e delle emissioni di carbonio.

2. Cosa suggeriscono gli esperti Charlotte Rogers e Ian Gough?
Gli esperti suggeriscono di concentrarsi su politiche innovative che ottimizzino l’uso delle case esistenti anziché costruirne di nuove.

3. Come viene attualmente prioritizzato il mercato immobiliare nel Regno Unito?
Attualmente, il mercato immobiliare nel Regno Unito è incentrato sulla generazione di capitale per i proprietari di case, senza considerare le necessità fondamentali delle persone.

4. A quale problema si sottolinea che questa approccio non contribuisce?
Questo approccio non contribuisce all’obiettivo ambientale urgente di decarbonizzare il settore dell’edilizia.

5. Qual è la soluzione proposta dagli autori dell’articolo?
La soluzione proposta è un cambiamento di paradigma che si concentri sull’utilizzo delle case esistenti e sull’adozione di politiche innovative di redistribuzione, riutilizzo ed efficienza.

6. Cosa si intende per retrofitting nel contesto dell’edilizia?
Il retrofitting nel contesto dell’edilizia si riferisce alla modifica o al miglioramento di case esistenti per renderle più efficienti dal punto di vista energetico.

7. Come viene suggerito di affrontare la crisi di social housing?
Viene suggerito di incentivare la coabitazione e la condivisione della casa, oltre a dare priorità all’affitto sociale nelle nuove costruzioni.

8. Cosa implica l’approccio di sufficienza proposto?
L’approccio di sufficienza proposto implica una trasformazione che sfida le norme di produzione e consumo, iniziando con la riduzione della ricchezza personale e del consumo di lusso.

9. Quali riforme politiche sono suggerite?
Sono suggerite riforme politiche che includono cambiamenti radicali nella tassazione e nella fissazione dei prezzi delle case, nonché la regolamentazione delle seconde case e delle case in eccesso.

10. Come possiamo affrontare l’aumento delle famiglie monoparentali?
Possiamo affrontare l’aumento delle famiglie monoparentali attraverso alternative come la coabitazione e la condivisione della casa.

11. Qual è il messaggio conclusivo dell’articolo?
Il messaggio conclusivo è che è necessario ripensare alle politiche abitative per affrontare le disuguaglianze sociali e le problematiche ambientali, massimizzando l’uso delle case esistenti e adottando misure volte alla sufficienza.


– Carbon emissions (emissioni di carbonio): The release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, mainly as a result of human activities such as burning fossil fuels.
– Retrofitting (retrofitting): The process of modifying or improving existing buildings to make them more energy-efficient.
– Embodied carbon costs (costi di carbonio incorporato): The carbon emissions associated with the production, transportation, and disposal of materials used in construction.
– Sufficiency approach (approccio di sufficienza): An approach that challenges excessive consumption and focuses on meeting basic needs rather than pursuing unlimited material wealth.
– Co-living (coabitazione): A housing arrangement where individuals or families share living spaces and often have access to communal areas or services.
– Social renting (affitto sociale): The provision of rental housing at affordable rates by the government or non-profit organizations, typically for low-income households.
– Downsizing (ridimensionamento): The act of moving to a smaller, usually less expensive, and easier to maintain property.
– Progressive property or land taxes (tasse progressive sulla proprietà o sulle terre): A tax system where the amount of tax paid increases as the value of the property or land increases.

Suggested Related Links:
Government of the United Kingdom
National Housing Federation