Election 2015: Housing

26 April 2015

Key issues

  • Housebuilding has not been keeping up with the rate of demand for a long time.
  • Latest figures show that the rate of house building over time and number of houses built per year in the UK has been falling since the 1980s, while the population has increased.
  • Under successive governments social home building either by Housing Associations or Local Authorities has slowed and waiting lists have remained high.
  • Some social housing stock is deemed 'non-decent' by the government, meaning it's in poor condition, poorly insulated, has outdated facilities or fails to meet legal minimum standards. The proportion of social housing stock that was judged to be 'non-decent' has been falling over the last few years; in England in 2012 the proportion was 15.2%.
  • This pressure on housing is going to get more pronounced as demand is predicted to get higher every year. England is predicted to have 220,000 extra households per year between 2012 and 2022.
  • The supply of new housing has fallen far short of that figure—119,000 homes were built in England in 2014.
  • The matter of young people not being able to raise a deposit to buy their first house, and the cost of private sector renting are both issues in this election and each major party has pledges towards addressing these problems in their manifestos. We have a briefing providing context to these debates:
    • UK house prices have more than trebled in the past 20 years
    • Fewer under-25s are buying homes, while houses are more expensive for first-time buyers relative to their incomes
    • Social housing waiting lists have risen, and rents are becoming more expensive
    • Housebuilding is at its lowest peacetime position since the 1920s in England and Wales
    • The UK still compares well internationally on overcrowding and unaffordability.
  • In 1983, the average UK home cost for a first-time buyer (or buyers in the case of joint mortgages) was the equivalent of 2.7 times their total annual earnings. In 2015 this had risen to 5 times their income.
  • In London the problem is particularly pronounced, as the ratio has increased from 3.7 to 9 times average incomes.

Common claims

"Housebuilding is at its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s."

The Conservative manifesto says this was the case under the last Labour government and Labour have criticised the coalition government because the low housebuilding rate has continued. It is important that the claim mentions 'peacetime' housebuilding, because during the second war housebuilding plummeted. We have factchecked this claim and produced a graph on the rate of housing building since the 1920s.

"Home ownership is now at its lowest level in 30 years"— Ed Miliband

Owner occupation in England currently accounts for 63% of all households, down from a peak at 71% in 2003. Private renters make up 19% of households, and those in the social rented sector account for the remaining 17%.

But the number buying with a mortgage has been in constant decline since the mid-2000s, and are now at levels last seen in the 1980s; the number of outright owners is rising. We have previously covered possible reasons for the decline, including rising house prices and the disparity between prices and the average buyer's earnings.

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