Paul Hackett, the director of the independent think tank the Smith Institute, has written an article for the Guardian this week addressing the chronic shortage of affordable housing in the UK.
However, rather than bemoaning the lack-lustre efforts of state resources, Hackett calls upon modern-day philanthropists to take a leaf out of their Victorian counterpart's books and invest in social housing.
Individuals such as Joseph Rowntree were as exceptional in their day as they would be considered now - pioneers for equality, social justice and the welfare of others. Incredibly, some of the housing they created remains in use today. However, such generosity has not evaporated in the 21st century - it has simply moved. The arts, education and medical research are all cited by Hackett and receiving enormous amounts of philanthropic funding each year. These are of course worthy causes, but
in the current climate Hackett seems to suggest housing philanthropy should be topping the priority list more often.
However, the article recognises that the onus cannot be entirely upon the generous, nor should their giving be denounced for not being the 'right' giving. Hackett names the USA as a role model for developing innovative ways of giving, such as direct land donations and crowd funding, and furthermore better incentives for people to invest in housing schemes, such as clear social returns.
In essence, the housing sector needs to make itself more appealing before it can expect an increase in donations.
A full report on the matter has been released by New Philanthropy Capital last month, but it is likely that any consequences of the report will take a long time to trickle through. In the meantime, let's hope a very rich philanthropist has read the article and is making some phone calls right now!