Review by Chris James
Last evening, I finished reading ‘A Home of One’s Own’ by Hashi Mohamed and completing the read motivated me to write this review.
The book addresses the rather depressing housing crisis that is affecting the country, as it has done for several decades – a crisis that has worsened in recent weeks with all the financial shenanigans and the mortgage interest rate rise. Mohamed is a planning barrister – but don’t get too hung up about that. He has an excellent back story to his personal life that gives his work and the book added weight.
Mohamed is the child of Somalian refugee parents. He grew up in various sub-standard and over-crowded homes before managing to make his way in the world to do the work he currently does. Interestingly, I stumbled across the book in the excellent Hunting Raven bookshop in Cheap Street in the middle of Frome. It was on display by the till – it’s a short book so it only cost six pounds. I guess it was a bit of an impulse buy.
In the book, Mohamed draws on his own experience and considerable expertise to review the current housing situation in the UK. In the opening chapter, he states that his intention in writing the book is to define the problem, give it a personal expression and a professional analysis and to offer some solutions – intentions, which in my view, he achieves. Early on he makes clear why the housing issue matters. Mohamed asserts that a home of one’s own is ‘one of the most important foundations for anyone seeking personal advancement, security, and a stable future’
Mohamed covers the challenges people face endeavouring to acquire a home of their own and acknowledges the blame that is often attached to those who don’t have one – they’re lazy, don’t work hard enough, they just need to get a job and save for a deposit and so on. He is also keen to make clear that he is not proposing some kind of socialist utopia. Mohamed is clear that the housing issue is one that has never been properly addressed by governments in the UK either left or right. He does however remind us of the ‘right to buy’ legislation introduced in the Thatcher era. Yes, this legislation did enable people to buy the council house they rented if they had the resources to do so but which massively reduced the number of homes available at a social rent. The effects of that legislation are still being felt. Interestingly, he draws attention to the ‘commodification’ of housing. Houses have become a marketable investment rather that being the place where a person can flourish and grow and become the best person they can become given what they came into the world with. Mohamed also makes clear it’s not that houses aren’t being built, the problem is more that developers aren’t building the right kind of houses.
Mohamed makes three proposals. First, he argues for better (political) leadership, which in turn ‘also requires a better-informed citizenry demanding their needs are met effectively’. He sets out the kind of legislative process required to achieve real change but does this is a way that is not naïve – he recognizes the challenge implicit in what he’s proposing. Second, Mohamed proposes that local authorities ‘need both the legal powers and the practical resources to build social housing’. In so doing, councils will need to work closely with developers. Third, interestingly, he argues for reforming the banking and mortgage system saying that addressing the supply issue is only likely to have a modest impact over a generation. He argues for making mortgages more accessible for those unable to rely on ‘the bank of mum and dad’ to purchase their first home.
The book makes the key points, which are based on substantial experience and expertise, lucidly and in an accessible way. Achieving the ideal of everyone being able to have a home of their own that they can afford is a massively complex issue but Mohamed threads his way through that complexity with considerable skill and insight. If this matter is of interest and importance to you – which it should be – I would urge you to get down to the Hunting Raven and buy a copy!