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How Close are We to Solving the UK Housing Crisis?

Phi Spencer

By Phil Spencer

Housing in the UK needs fixing. This is something we’re all aware of.

We are making some steps towards positive change! In the November Budget 2017, the government said that it will be building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020’s in a bid to meet the UK housing crisis.

But, for some, commitment from the government is meaningless. It’s time for action! So, let’s weigh it all up. How close are we to solving the housing crisis?

What caused the housing crisis?

Where did all these problems come from in the first place?

Some believe it’s a disaster of our own making, others feel that it’s a result of circumstances out of our control. It appears we cannot blame the UK housing crash on one factor alone.

Here are some of the main causes:

  • Increasing population/ higher life expectancy of said population
  • Smaller households (the less people in one house, the more need to be built)
  • More property investors, meaning the buy-to-let market has grown
  • Local councils building less houses
  • Lack of available land
  • Sky-high house prices
  • Unaffordable rent

Time to dig a little deeper… Here’s the UK housing crisis explained:

Lack of affordable homes

Owner-occupation levels for the young have collapsed because homes have become unaffordable.

In fact, a study showed that the chances of a young adult on a middle income owning a home in the UK have more than halved in the past two decades.

So, sky-high house prices have taken their toll. For many, owning a home is simply not an option.

While renting can get extremely expensive, particularly in London, it can be the cheaper option than tackling all the hidden costs that come alongside buying a house itself, such as removals costs.

Difficulties for first-time buyers

First-time buyers have it rough! Society is largely to blame for this, since it can feel as though there’s a lack of help for first-time buyers out there.

People trying to get a foot on the property ladder cannot get the deposit they need, so are forced to privately rent – in some areas paying more than a third of their household income.

Of course, when it comes to renting or buying, some people choose to rent and there’s nothing wrong with that. The freedom to be able to move when you want, or have no maintenance worries, can be compelling reasons not to buy your own home.

However, for some, renting is a force of circumstance - not a choice. Getting a foothold on the property ladder can feel like an impossible task.

Lack of new houses being built

While house-building has recovered from the lows of the financial recession a decade ago, there’s still a long way to go until the prime minister’s target is hit.

A growing population requires more housing! It seems we’re still unable to keep up, particularly in the densely populated areas, such as London.

It seems straightforward enough - more people need more houses! But, evidently, solving the housing crisis is more difficult than simply building more homes. However, the lack of housing in Britain needs to change.

Social housing shortage

Homelessness and rough sleeping are at their highest levels since 2010 which gives some indication into just how dire the social housing situation is.

Sky-high house prices, increasing rent and benefit cuts have all contributed to the need for more social housing. However, it simply isn’t available.

The impact of this has been felt all over the country, particularly in the capital.

The London housing crisis

London’s home crisis has been largely blamed on the divide of wealth. Many families are forced to live in temporary housing for extended periods of time, or relocated across the country away from the people they know.

Meanwhile, many properties sit empty and unused, owned by the richer members of society and seen as investments.

So, unsurprisingly, the London housing crisis statistics aren’t looking good. London’s population is currently nearly 9 million, with more than 8,000 of them sleeping rough on the streets in 2016-17.

Imbalances in supply and demand

The current state of UK housing is often blamed on immigration.

However, it appears that it’s population growth in general, not migration on its own.

An imbalance in supply and demand is an all-encompassing term that describes the lack of resources (in this case houses) for those who need them.

But, to solve these housing problems, we need to look for a solution.

Where's Britain’s housing crisis now?

Things are starting to move – albeit slowly. Housing issues in the UK won’t disappear overnight, but we’re making steps in the right direction.

Let’s focus on the positives:

  • Earlier this year the government announced in a press release that an £866 million investment in local housing projects will potentially help unlock 200,000 new homes
  • In March, the government said that councils and local authorities must meet house-building targets or lose planning powers. Planning laws will be overhauled with new rules created to set councils targets for annual new builds
  • There are currently 216,000 homes across the country which have been empty for six months or more – with over 11,000 of these having stood unoccupied for ten years. Some areas are providing empty property grants as an incentive to restore these properties
  • New legislation gives councils the power to charge a “council tax premium” on empty properties. This is the first rise in a decade, and it’s hoped it will encourage property owners to bring their empty houses back in to use

So, while many people may feel their questions are going unanswered, such as, ‘how many houses are being built in the UK?’, the government is making efforts to solve

Is government support for the housing issues working?

To combat the housing crisis in the UK and help people on the property ladder, the government has developed a number of financial support schemes.

But, are they working? Here’s a snapshot …

Starter Home scheme

The 2014 Starter Home initiative was described as being part of a leg-up to help people on the housing ladder, promising innovative changes to the planning system.

The scheme pledged to offer first-time buyers under 40 20% off the value of new-built homes on the housing market.

However, officials were forced to admit, more than three years later, that delivering any properties under the scheme remained an ambition.

Help to Buy scheme

The Help to Buy scheme appears to be successful. The scheme lends hopeful homeowners up to 20% of the cost of the home, so they only need a 5% cash deposit and a 75% mortgage to make up the rest.

It’s made many positive changes! The proof is in the facts and figures:

  • A total of 158,883 properties have been purchased using the Help to Buy equity loan scheme
  • Loans issued are worth £8.27bn
  • New build properties worth a total of £39.28bn have been purchased under the scheme

It seems this scheme has made a step towards tackling the current housing demand in the UK.

Right to Buy

If you’ve rented your home from the council for a certain period of time, you’re eligible to buy it at a discount.

Conditions apply, of course. You must have lived in your home for three years, however, these don’t need to be consecutive.

Shared ownership

Shared ownership means that you buy a share of a home from your landlord. You then pay a discounted rent on the share you don’t own.

Later down the line, this can be changed, and you can end up owning the property outright by buying a bigger share.

Those earning under 80,000 in the UK (90,000 in London) can apply for shared ownership.

The scheme is an easy way to get on the property ladder, however, it’s not without its problems. The title of ‘shared ownership’ has been called into question by some, as the landlord still holds most of the power. Many see the scheme as simply a normal tenancy agreement with a huge deposit.

As a result, it’s unclear whether this scheme has made any headway in solving the housing issues in the UK.

How close are we to 300,000 new homes being built a year?

So, how close are we to making a marked change in the housing situation in the UK.

According to a study from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, only 12% of its members expressed any confidence in such volumes (300,000 a year) of new homes being delivered. The rest were lacking in confidence or unsure.

This sentiment is mirrored by analysis from industry body the Housing and Finance Institute (HFI) who say a radical new housing approach is needed in the UK to deliver the Government’s new 300,000 homes target.

HFI reports that there have been only six years since the Second World War that more than 300,000 homes a year have been completed in England - the year of the Moon landing in 1969.

What’s the solution for the housing crisis in the UK?

When it comes to the housing situation in the UK, the government seem to be between a rock and a hard place. Successive governments have failed to be able to tackle the housing crisis with any great success.

Building houses in everyone’s backyard is a very emotive issue and therefore becomes a crisis seems to be able to handle.

Without new homes being built, property developers and investors move housing stock into the rental market – meaning home ownership might not be achievable to a growing number of people.

Without proper legislation and government intervention to force these targets, it will be hard to see how this will be possible. Therefore, the housing shortage in the UK won’t find a resolution.

Whether you’re looking to buy or rent, find out more about your new area with a property report. A full report contains information on everything from schools to crime stats, telling you everything you need to know. Get your full report here.

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