The UK's Chronic Housing Shortage | GBW

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Where are the new houses? The UK’s chronic housing shortage



The increase in house prices, the failure of annual wages to keep pace, and the increasing population demands have highlighted the severe shortage of housing available in the UK.

Successive Governments have failed to deliver new housing stock, so the shortfall means that we need to build approximately 250,000 new homes each year to meet this growth.

This level of construction has not been achieved since the 1970s and has fallen each decade since. The result has been an enormous increase in house prices and subsequent decline in affordability for many trying to get a foot on the housing ladder.


Source: English Housing Survey


Lower down the economic scale, there is a similar shortage of social housing. Local authorities no longer building large numbers of houses has resulted in poor quality private rental accommodation, overcrowding, and in some cases, homelessness.

Although non-profit housing associations continue to build, they rely heavily on Government subsidy and the reduction in such subsidies for these types of projects is having an effect.

According to The October 2010 Spending Review, the capital subsidy available up to 2014-15 for the development of new affordable housing had reduced to £4.5 billion (down from £8.4 billion over the period of the previous Spending Review).


THE problems

One of the major criticisms cited for failing to keep the demand for housing in-line with supply has been the difficult planning process. In response, the Government has introduced schemes such as permitted development rights and help to buy in an attempt to redress this.

Criticism has also been aimed at the construction industry for operating with a small number of big players who take too long to build, keeping demand and prices high. We need more house building companies, but the planning system and skills shortage continue to hamper progress.

Another common criticism is that there is a lack of land available for building with too many protected green belt areas that are without public access or high environmental value and it is hard to justify their protection.

In February 2017 the Government issued a White Paper setting out its plans for “Fixing our broken housing market.

Solutions suggested include:

  • need to plan for the right homes in the right places
  • need to build homes faster
  • diversify the housing market



Because the solutions are all long term the Government has also issued a series of reforms to try and help people now, including investment in affordable housing, cracking down on empty homes, and doing more to prevent homelessness by supporting households at risk before they reach crisis point.

In order to facilitate an increase in house building, everyone needs to be on board. Land needs to be released in the right places. Local authorities need to make the planning process easier and faster. Local communities need to have a say in what is required from a development. We need to encourage smaller contractors with less traditional building methods (such as modular and factory-built homes) and self-builders to have access to the market, while at the same time holding the large developers to account for unnecessary delays.


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