TED Talk with IELTS Vocab and Writing Task 2: Housing Crisis


This lesson incorporates a TED Talk (on housing) along with IELTS vocab and writing help.

Sarah Murray’s 2018 Talk on the world’s housing crisis, where many are increasingly being priced out of the market, could not have come at a better moment. Homes have become too expensive and deposits are equally hard to save up for when renting in the city. This quandary has come to harm many millennials who have found their finances a severe limitation when seeking to buy a home. Sarah’s talk comes up with positive solutions to help democratise the housing market through innovation of construction and design. Her solution is not only elegantly simple but also crucial when tackling the global shortfall in housing. More about housing problems can be read here at The Guardian. If you’d like additional ideas to use TED Talks in class the have a look at my short guide here.

TED Talk video gap-fill task

Watch the video and decide whether the statements below are TRUE or FALSE. (Answers are below.)


  1.  Homeownership among young Americans has fallen to the lowest levels in recorded history.
  2. Building a home using Architects and builders is consistent and well-priced.
  3. She wanted a democratised design in the building and design process.
  4. She thinks houses should be constructed on site as it’s cheaper and more efficient.
  5. Her software includes a Happiness Tally.
  6. Sarah believes sustainable housing is unaffordable.
  7. Ms Murray says that 190,000 homes need to be built.
  8. She believes a home offers dignity
  9. Her business only builds homes for those in need.
  10. She says that 3D printing lowers costs by 40%
  11. She says it’s impossible to print foam insulation.

  1. False, she mentions Australians
  2. False, service is inconsistent and prices are high
  3. True
  4. False, she can’t believe why this is done.
  5. True
  6. True
  7. False, 190,000 families in Australia are on a public housing waiting list.
  8. True
  9. False, for everyone 10 homes purchased, she builds one for free
  10. True
  11. False, a French company has innovated this technology.


IELTS Listening Task

The task below is taken from the transcript of the video above. The text has words omitted in the style of an IELTS listening test.

Now go back to 6:58 and listen to the video to fill in the gaps. Use may use no more than three words for the blanks provided.


This is made possible because today,with design for (1)                                                , which uses light gauge steel frame construction, shipped and assembled on-site, we can decrease construction costs by 20 percent and (2)                                            waste by 15 percent, saving time, money and keeping tons of waste out of (3)                                       . The power in modular constructionis that you can build year-round with confidence in your costs, in your quality, and in your delivery date, in your build date. Now, wouldn’t that be crazy? Wouldn’t that be great?


But –that doesn’t get me to my goal. My goal is one-for-one. So I’ve been traveling the world, looking at (4)                                           of construction 3-D printing, trying to find technology that will help me deliver on my ambition. 3-D printing is so exciting and so promising, offering a 40 percent reduction in cost and near (5)                                        . And this is just to name a few, but some of the really exciting (6)                                           happening all over the world are happening in Italy, France, Dubai and Australia. And they use robotic arms to print everything from (7)                                                     to concrete, to wax.


In Italy, they have developed a technique using sorel cement. Sorel cement was originally invented in 1867, and it’s the (8)                                                           of magnesium oxide and local sand,which they can now use to print solid stone walls. And in France, they have a (9)                                                   although still experimental process where they print two (10)                                                                 tracks of foam insulation and pour concrete in the middle to create solid stone. And in Dubai, sitting at the foot of those two (11)                                                 Emirates Towers, is a vision of the future in the middle of the desert.They’ve got their experimental office of the future, which is constructed using 3-D printed concrete which was printed in China and shipped and (12)                                                on location in Dubai.


  1. manufacture and assembly
  2. environmental
  3. landfills
  4. different alternatives
  5. zero waste
  6. innovations
  7. solid stone
  8. beautiful chemical marriage
  9. egulator-approved
  10. parallel
  11. glorious
  12. assembled



Useful IELTS vocabulary to describe cities and urban life


Amenity (amenities) NOUN
Amenities are things in a city which everyone uses and are needed by all, like gyms, parks, shopping centres, hospitals and etc. They are provided for people’s enjoyment, convenience, and comfort.
Harry and Sally moved to Colorado as the local amenities in the area were just what they were looking for.
 Commuter NOUN
 A commuter is a person who travels to and from work on a regular basis, this does not include business trips or occasional travel
 Many people living in New York and London are commuters.
 A place that is very busy, crowded. Full of people and cars. A high traffic area.
 As London’s population continues to grow, the problem of traffic congestion will only continue.
 Shenzhen, once a small fishing village in the south of China, is now a city that has increased congestion, pollution, and energy demand.
 When talking about a large number of homes and refer to their price, quality, or location.
 Australia has seen in recent years a shortage of affordable housing.
 Resident (residents) NOUN
The people who live in an area, or those in a block of flats.
The residents who escaped the fire are now seeking government assistance for rehousing.
Residents are protesting developers who are attempting to pave over the local park.
Immigrant (immigrants) NOUN
A person who has moved to live in another country.
Silicon Valley employes a large number of immigrants so as to plug the skills gap.
Germany has a large number of Syrian immigrants.
A place full of people, lots of noise, active, lively.
The bustling streets of London is where shoppers and tourists go.
Pioneering ADJECTIVE
The work of an individual which has not been done before.
Developers are pioneering new techniques to build low-cost and affordable homes.
The countryside or less city-like areas.
The closure of rural post offices.
Growing over a wide area in an uncontrolled way.
Los Angeles is a large sprawling city which covers a vast area.
Elvis’s house was a sprawling mansion set in the Hollywood Hills.

Practice exercises

Exam writing tip

The words you use are not only written to show your ideas and opinion but to also indicate your attitude. In the IELTS test, it is important to use words and phrases which explain your ideas but also your attitude to it. Observe the following:

  • The story was complex
  • The story was complicated

The word complex is referring to the level of difficulty, but the word complicated includes the fact that it was uncomfortably so. The word complex is neutral, whereas complicated has a more negative connotation.

Read the following sentences and determine which are positive and which are negative:

  1. The streets of London are normally crowded/bustling on a Saturday afternoon.
  2. The Labour government has developed a new housing scheme for the homeless that has critics praising it for its novel/pioneering design.
  3. Los Angeles is a metropolis in the western United States which is known for its extensive/sprawling suburbs.
  4. Southen France is best known for many old/historic buildings dotted around the countryside.

IELTS writing task 2, sample essay

Cities and urban life is a subject that often comes up in the IELTS exam. In fact, it can appear in any section. Below is a sample writing task 2 question that you are quite likely to see in an IELTS test.

The increasing housing problem in big cities has social consequences. Some people say that only government can solve this problem.

While this question can seem imposing, but you don’t need specialist knowledge or an advanced understanding of what the government is doing or has not done. You can use your experiences, general knowledge of your own country, or any news pieces you have happened to have read to help you answer this question. If you feel like you’re struggling to answer the question you can refer to personal experience too.

This question is referring to three aspects that could be a great way to answer the question:

  1. Comment on the housing problem, how and why.
  2. What the social consequences are if any.
  3. What the authority/power the government has to solve it.

My writing plan

  • cities have a better quality of life
  • expensive
  • pollution
  • rent is high
  • poverty
  • green tech

Here’s my sample answer:

The desire to move to the city for employment opportunities, access to amenities, and a increased quality of life has not diminished in recent years. That said, there are many drawbacks to living in an urban environment. In my opinion, governments should step up their efforts to improve the lives of urban inhabitants.

Those migrating to larger metropolitan areas from sparsely populated parts of the country will encounter increased cost of living. Residents in those areas pay a disproportionate amount of their pay on transportation, food, utilities, and even property taxes. These areas are likely to suffer from incidences of anti-social behaviour, high crime rates, pollution, and rates of deprivation. This is in stark contrast to rural areas, where it is statistically safer and cleaner. City public transport networks tend to be chronically overcrowded, with roads being visibly congested for most of the day. The cumulative effect means that city living negatively impacts health and stress levels.

With this in mind, the government should concentrate on providing solutions to these widespread problems. Firstly, further investment is needed to reduce the level of air pollution in the city by investing more in green tech for cars and buses. Local government can also encourage walking and cycling to further reduce traffic congestion and improve people’s health. Secondly, a government-sponsored housing programme would also benefit the city by reducing the cost of living. Lastly, central government should attempt to diversify the nation’s economy so that jobs and businesses are no longer concentrated in cities.

To sum up, the lives of city inhabitants can be vastly improved if the government invested in housing, green energy and a more mixed economy.

(277 words, Band 9)


Final thoughts

As you can see, just by reading high-quality articles and listening to TED Talks you can master the IELTS writing task 2 section. For students out there, I will personally check the first two IELTS essays posted in the comments section below.

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