Britain’s Property Crisis – A Review

David Rutland
Written by David Rutland

ITV’s bold expose on affordable housing was timidly one sided and exposed nothing new.

There’s a limited amount of nuance that TV producers can squeeze into a 24 minute investigatory segment on prime time TV.  And Thursday evening’s “Tonight – Britain’s Property Crisis” on ITV, didn’t even attempt it.

As the opening aerial shots and credits rolled, viewers were treated to a stream of emotive deadpan language from the delightful Julie Etchingham.

“Heartbroken. Homeless. Evicted,” Ms Etchingham intoned. “Facing a choice of overcrowding…or the street”

Steady on Julie. Don’t pull any punches now.

The show, which has so far this series covered such hard-hitting topics as “Fighting Fat: Back to Basics,” and “What Car Should I Buy?” launched straight into sob stories compered by the walking soporific known as Jonathan Maitland.

We were treated to tales of comic ineptitude from local authorities – resulting in tragedy for the residents of St Michael’s gate. A leasehold transfer of Peterborough housing to a new management company resulted in the entire community being kicked out to make room for homeless people. Oh the irony!

“They received a letter out of the blue,” explained Mr Maitland, earnestly. “What’s known as a Section 21 order telling them they were to be evicted. Even though they had done nothing wrong, they were told they had two months notice to find somewhere else!”

A sad story, no doubt, but does it really count as news? Section 21 notices are not a state secret, and most people know at least one person who has been hit by one.

Earnest residents boasting new hairdos and designer spectacles delivered their pieces-to-camera, claiming their bafflement and lack of understanding at the concept of landlords being able to evict tenants. Jonathan Maitland nods sympathetically throughout.

Even Polly Neate of the homeless charity, Shelter, seemed surprised as she delivered facts and figures on innocent and virtuous tenants who were subjected to Section 21 orders by the wicked landlord class.

Predictably, Peterborough council was given 25 seconds in which to respond.

To a jaunty upbeat pop tune (the name of which escapes us right now), the programme highlighted the government’s unlikely-to-be-implemented plans to make three year minimum term leases a legal right before moving on to the lack of housing stock in general.

Here Mr Maitland has some good points, but again, it’s not really news. Land is expensive. The process of building homes is expensive. Investors want a return on their investments.

The average house now costs eight times more than the average wage. Yawn.

The programme then used archive footage of sporting heroes Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff, and Gary Neville, who invested in build-to-rent properties – huge towers which will contain hundreds of luxury apartments. Mr Maitland says it’s a problem that “none of them are affordable.”

We guess that Misters Flintoff and Neville will be sitting on a vast, empty white elephant for the indefinite future, sobbing into their Macallan “M” whisky.

No. What Tonight’s scriptwriters mean is that poor people can’t afford to live in the luxury high rises. Quelle surprise. Quelle horreur.

In the closing credits, Tonight gives special thanks and appreciation to “20 Stories” an insanely fashionable Manchester restaurant where a pint of lager costs £6, and a bottle of non vintage champagne can set you back nearly £400.

In next week’s installment of ‘Tonight,’ Laura Tobin will be continuing the theme of addressing topics already familiar to all, by dedicating an entire episode to The Weather. Is it good or bad? Who knows?

Probably not Jonathan Maitland.

(If you think we’re joking about Tonight’s Weather special, we’re not).


Image credit: Shaun Murphy

About the author

David Rutland

David Rutland

With a decades long career as a professional writer, David Rutland has worked as a journalist on local, national, and international newspapers, before embarking as a career as a freelancer.

He has ghostwritten several books, as well as producing travel guides, manuals, humour articles, and more internet blogs than you can shake a stick at.

David maintains offices in East London, but spends most of his time in a shed near Liverpool, where he writes, as well as developing apps for Android.

What people say about him:

Arrogant and abrasive - Alan Davis, Editor in Chief North Wales News Group

An absolute liability - Matt Simms, Editor, Vale advertiser

Are you sure this won't get us all arrested? - Mohana Prabhakar, Editor in Chief, Apex News Group

Go and have a shave. You're all prickly - Mrs Donna Rutland.


  • Everyone knows someone who has been served a Section 21 notice? Now that’s a definite need for a documentary investigation right there.

    • Unsurprisingly, there aren’t any centrally compiled statistics on the number of S21 notices issued. In most cases it’s a private matter between the tenant and the landlord. I, personally know people who have received notice.

      However, other people have a better idea than I do. In this instance, I’m using Sian Berry’s figures. She is Co-Leader and Principal Speaker of the Green Party of England and Wales, as well as representing Highgate on Camden Council, and being a Member of the London Assembly.

      She is known for diligent research and hating 4×4 vehicles in cities.

      These are some stats (and I have no idea of how she obtained them) which she presented to the London Assembly back in July:

      *43% of renters – almost half – have had to move, at some point, when they didn’t want to.
      *80% of evictions are on no fault grounds.
      *63% of people evicted in 2016 lost their homes because private landlords wanted to sell or use their homes for something else.

      Assuming Ms Berry has a solid foundation for these figures and hasn’t pulled them out of the air, then yes, if you know people who rent, you almost certainly know someone who has received a section 21.

      And no, it doesn’t need a documentary investigation because it is so damned common, everybody knows about it.

      We have previously covered Ms Berry and her efforts to outlaw Section 21 here: http://rent.works/an-end-to-no-fault-evictions/

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