20 different properties, one alarming story about modern Britain

Kieran Yates’s ‘All the Houses I’ve Ever Lived In’ is a call for new, imaginative solutions to the country’s housing injustices
June 14, 2023
All the Houses I’ve Ever Lived In: Finding Home in a System that Fails Us
Kieran Yates (RRP: £14.99)
Buy on Bookshop.org
Buy on Bookshop.org

“The house my mum grew up in, where I took my first steps, was a lesson in building comfort and familiarity. It taught me that home is something to fight for,” writes journalist Kieran Yates in All the Houses I’ve Ever Lived In. She left her grandparents’ house as a toddler and has been moving ever since: by the age of 25, she had lived in 20 different properties.

Her book—a careering journey through council estates in west London, a rural cottage in Wales, cookie-cutter student halls and mouldy rented house shares—examines the politics of the housing crisis through the lens of her experience. She writes as compellingly about the magnolia walls in her mother’s flat on the Green Man Lane estate in Ealing as she does about sharing a twin room above a Snappy Snaps in Clapham with a random Australian graphic designer.

The book is part polemic, part memoir. Each house is brought alive by her account of the people who live in it; vignettes of her neighbours in Ealing capture a close-knit community let down by the neglect of the council. She tells an endearing anecdote about walking across the icy floor tiles in a rural house in Wales to go to the toilet at night: “I just scattered my jumpers on the floor to the bathroom, hopping over them like a cold little frog needing a wee.”

In the epilogue, Yates writes about the anger that pulsated through her while she was writing the book, and All the Houses I’ve Ever Lived In certainly is a clarion call for housing justice and a damning indictment of the policy failures of successive governments. But it is also an invitation to consider more imaginative questions about how we should organise not only our housing, but our lives.

Homeownership is often considered a “flag in the dirt declaring  that you’ve made it”. But, in her book, Yates dares to ask: “What if home didn’t need to be earned?”