What is it?
To illustrate what it calls the "housing crisis", Shelter is imagining what soap opera storylines might be like if the house prices in their fictional streets had increased as much as they have in the real-life locations on which they are based.
The housing charity has published a Buzzfeed-style article on its website explaining that EastEnders characters would have experienced a rise of 530 per cent in house prices in Albert Square since 1995. In the same period, it says, Coronation Street residents would have seen an increase of 233 per cent in Salford. And the population of Emmerdale would have seen a 165 per cent rise in West Yorkshire over the past 20 years. They point out that many of the characters would have been priced out of the area, would be paying "sky-high" rents or would be worrying about whether they could afford to buy a home.
The charity has been sharing images on Facebook and Twitter that mimic the style of television magazines and represent the above information in the form of bold headlines. These link through to a website where people can enter their postcodes and find out how much house prices and the cost of renting have risen in their area, as well as how many people are homeless. The charity is also encouraging people to sign its petition, which calls on politicians to build more affordable homes.
Affordable housing is high on the agenda as the election approaches. In a blog post, Shelter’s Tom McCarthy says: "For decades political parties have failed to build enough homes – especially affordable ones. Left to struggle with rising rents, across the country young families are watching a home of their own slip further and further out of reach." But he adds that the general election gives people "a chance to change the story".
From a communications perspective, it’s also a good week to jump on the soap opera bandwagon on social media, with EastEnders celebrating its 30th anniversary and expecting millions of people to tune in for the long-awaited conclusion of a murder storyline.
Third Sector verdict
Among all the tables and graphs about housing that are being produced by political parties and the media, it’s refreshing to see the hard facts and figures presented in an interesting and unique way that ordinary people can relate to. Bringing in examples from Salford, West Yorkshire and Chester also engages people from across the country in the affordable housing debate, which is so often focused on London. The interactive feature where users can find out about housing issues in their postcode areas will also encourage people to get on board with the campaign.