Engels on housing

The housing crisis now in London has broadly similar themes to what Engels wrote in 1872, yet he had a different solution to what we believe it should be.

Here is what he had to say:

“How then is the housing question to be solved? In present-day society, it is solved as every other social question is solved: by the gradual economic equalisation of supply and demand, a solution which ever anew begets the very same question, and is consequently no solution at all. How a social revolution would solve this question depends not only on the circumstances then existing, but is also connected with much more far-reaching questions, one of the most important of which is the abolition of the antagonism between town and country. As it is not our business to make any Utopian systems for the organisation of the society of the future, it would be more than idle to go into this. But this much at least is certain, that in the large towns there are already enough dwelling houses, if these -were made rational use of, to immediately relieve any real “housing shortage.” This, of course, can only be
done by the expropriation of the present owners and by quartering in their houses workers who are homeless or are excessively overcrowded in their present quarters; and as soon as the proletariat has conquered political power, such a measure, demanded in the interests of public welfare, would be as easy to carry through as other expropriations and quarterings by the state of today.”

Friedrich Engels, The Housing Question, 1872


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