Manifesto report: Housing

Published: 3rd May 2015

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There's an old saying about Englishmen and their homes. The modern variation might be that they don't have enough of them.

The basic problem is supply continually failing to meet demand. The population is growing, increasingly affected by net inward migration, and the average household size is shrinking through divorce, people becoming widowed, and high proportions of single people.

England is going to have a projected 220,000 extra households per year between 2012 and 2022.

But the supply of new housing has fallen far short of that figure in recent years—119,000 homes were built in England in 2014.

It's been a long-term concern. The number of completed new homes has been falling since the 1960s—there haven't been 220,000 new dwellings built in any year since 1978.

Almost one in six households in England were social renders in 2013/14. But social house building, provided through local councils or housing associations, has also slowed. There are 1.37 million households on waiting lists for social housing in England.

Policies like Right to Buy, which on one hand have increased ownership levels, have on the other hand decreased the availability of social housing stock.

For those trying to buy, house prices have been risen sharply over recent years. While it's difficult to put an exact number on this, they seem to have increased to three or four times their average level twenty years ago.

And prices have risen faster than wages. The average house cost seven times the average income in 2013 compared with three and a half times the average income in 1997.

Levels of home ownership have fallen, affecting young people in particular. Over the last ten years, owner occupation for the 25—34 age group has dropped from 59% to 36%.

While private sector rents, adjusted for inflation, have remained relatively stable since 2011, wages haven't been rising in line with inflation—so renting has become less affordable over the past few years.

Despite the sharp rises in house prices and the steep fall in house building seen over the last few decades, the UK still fares comparatively well when it comes to overcrowding and unaffordability.

In 2012, 7.4% of Brits were 'overburdened' by housing costs, spending more than 40% of their incomes to keep the roof over their heads, according to the European Union's statistical arm. This was below the EU average of 11.2%, and significantly below other large European nations such as Germany (16.6%), Spain (14.3%) and the Netherlands (14.4%).

Housing is a devolved matter in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so our coverage here focuses on England unless otherwise stated.

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