Opinion: Tackling Britain’s housing crisis

Terraced housingLiberal Democrats have long recognised the housing crisis that has grown steadily worse since the 1979 Conservative Government stopped councils building new homes.  In Government, Liberal Democrats have made a good start at increasing the number of affordable homes built for rent, with 335,000 homes to be completed between 2011 and 2018, and supported initiatives to help deliver market housing.

We’ve also agreed an ambitious target of 300,000 new homes each year for overall housing supply as party policy.  But even with some councils starting to build again, there is a long way to go before anywhere near enough homes are built each year in Britain to meet need. 

The Local Authority Housing Review, set in train by the Autumn Statement, will look at how councils can do more to increase supply, how self-financing for councils has worked in practice, and will examine how councils could access finance in innovative ways to get more homes built.  I am excited to have been asked by Danny Alexander and Eric Pickles to co-lead this independent Review with Natalie Elphicke, founder of Million Homes, Million Lives.

Later this spring the Review will launch a call for evidence. This is the opportunity for everyone who is passionate about tackling our housing crisis to put forward practical ideas and solutions.  For Liberal Democrats this is a chance to make the case for change alongside our own manifesto for 2015.

* Cllr Keith House has been Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council since 1994.

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  • So we think Councils should use tax-payer’s money to pay through the nose to buy into a housing bubble caused by government constrained land supply? Only 0.04% of the UK is available to build on under the current system, it’s no wonder housing isn’t affordable.

  • I wonder what effect the Deregulation Bill will have. Section 20 proposes to reduce the qualifying period for Right to Buy from five years to three years, and our MPs will doubtless by whipped to vote for that.

  • First of all congratulations to Keith for twenty years of inspired work in Eastleigh — what a shame he is not leader of the party at national level.
    Then a comment on one part of his piece here — “335,000 homes to be completed between 2011 and 2018, …”
    this is fewer than 60,000 per year. It is a start but it a very ambitious one.

    Land availability is a major problem in provision of affordable homes. For a solution to the land availability check out the land in the ownership of the MoD and the Royal Estate. These are teo of the top ten land owners in the country. Prize some of this public owned land out of the grasp of the generals and the royal spongers and you have a quick , simple and cheap contribution to solving the housing crisis.

  • That should have said —
    this is fewer than 60,000 per year. It is a start but NOT a very ambitious one

  • 335,000 affordable homes. Truth is as private eye points out this week, see page 9, the 170,000 affordable homes to be build this parliament (are w e on target ?) and the 165,000 in the next are not all social (ie non-market) rent but very many are “affordable” ie 80% of market rent and unaffordable for most people who need them.

    Keith is doing a great job in Eastleigh and it is good to see that he is the first to say that less than 40,000 homes for rent a year is nowhere near enough. What worries me is that Mathhew Taloyr ex-MP for Truro covered similar ground and we all know thta the answer is council housing – but some people for ideological reasons don’t want to hera thta answer and will do anything to bloc it.

  • With a population likely to grow by 4.5 million in the next 10 years, we need at least 200,000 houses per year built just too keep up with that. In order to address the existing need we probably need the same again. So we should be looking at building 400,000 or more houses per year.

    Either that or do something to discourage immigration or encourage emigration.

    If things continue with their current trajectory, we should expect trouble.

  • And the LibDems, like the Conservatives and Labour since 1979, have done worse than absolutely nothing about the main case of the housing shortage: unsustainable population growth, by encouraging unsustainably high-levels of migration into the UK. Until we start addressing population growth and drive it back down to it’s 1998 level (the baseline for many of our ‘climate change’ and emissions targets) there will be a housing shortage.

  • John Gummer said we needed four million homes in the 1990s. Gordon Brown said the same a few years later.

  • Joe King 5th Feb ’14 – 9:47pm. Roland 5th Feb ’14 – 9:49pm. Housing need is little or nothing to do with migration in and out of the UK. Movements within the UK are much more relevant. Check the relative price of housing in for example Morecombe in Lancashire and the London Borough of Richmond. You could buy a street of houses in Morecombe for the price of a single family home on Richmond Hill. That is not because Richmond is awash with immigrants, there are other much more important factors affecting the housing market.

    London and the South East have a huge problem with the lack of affordable houses because as Vince Cable has pointed out the economy is out of balance, London is over-heated with a property bubble running wild. This is not the case elsewhere in the UK. Patterns of migration in and out of the UK have not created the situation in London. There are high numbers of EU migrants in agricultural areas where property is cheap and (compared to London) very easily available. Don’t fall into the trap of rightwing populists who always want to scapegoat the newcomer.

  • Facepalm.

    The lack or provision of council houses is not what is causing the explosion in prices of private houses.

    Makes a good soundbite for the papers, not so much a good basis of policy.

  • @JohnTilley
    In general I would agree the impact of immigration on regional variations in house prices is most probably minimal.
    However, the impact of mass migration into the UK on housing demand should not be under estimated, certainly the ONS doesn’t, and I suggest you are a fool not to pay careful attention to the available data and government policy.

    Current ONS projections indicate that if current levels of net migration continue then by 2027 we are looking at a population of over 75M, with zero net migration the population is projected to level out at around 66M, with most of the increase over today’s population arising from children born to recent immigrants. Given that the current population is circa 62M (an increase of 3M since 1998), at best this is 4M and potentially 13M additional people that will need housing over and above existing need.

    However, if look at the ONS 1998 projections we see that they projected the UK population to peak out at a little under 65M circa 2030. the reason for the massive difference; sustained high levels of immigration.

    Whilst I understand your concerns about the “trap of rightwing populists”, The angle I am coming from is very different: When the bouncer says the venue is full, no one (who wants to get in) questions it – either you wait in line until someone leaves or you go elsewhere; the same principle needs to apply here, anything else is unsustainable.

  • Roland
    This thread is about housing. ONS population estimates are about population. I hope that you do not think I am a fool for considering data on housing. I have no wish to get involved in the sort of discussion that scapegoats people. Your suggestion that the UK is “full”is patent nonsense. To illustrate this point let me referyou to the population of the city of Tokyo which has more than 37 million people in an area much smaller than the UK. just have a look at the map of the UK and check out where most people live, they live in cities and large towns. So all this talk about the country being full is nonsense and a distraction from dealing with the housing problem. If the UK population grows then provide more houses. If there is a housing problem put forward a housing solution. Or is your real concern that you do not want houses in the UK lived in by people whose skin is a different colour, or whose grandma spoke Polish?

  • @JohnTilley
    >This thread is about housing.
    Population and housing demand are intertwined, without an idea of total population and where we envisage it will be in the coming decades, practically all the numbers that people band around concerning the numbers of houses (and types of houses) that need to be built per annum are pure fantasy. If you disagree then please provide an empirical basis for the LibDem target of 300,000 new homes each year, that doesn’t involve consideration of population size.

    My point is exactly this, successive governments have avoided any real consideration of how the UK population is evolving and recognition that their policies and lack of policies play a major factor in that. Just saying that ONS projections indicate that the population will be 77M in 2027 and hence we need to build houses for 13M people over the coming years, is actually an abdication of responsibility by government, as it is government policy (or non-policy) that will largely determine whether the ONS projection is broadly correct or not.

    >The UK is “full” is patent nonsense
    Unfortunately not!
    “Full” is as you rightly indicate is a debatable measure and will vary depending upon what you are using as your measure. For example the hall at my local community centre has several different levels of “full” dependent upon the setup of the hall eg. theatre seating, banqueting, disco etc. all of which have been set through due application of fire and health and safety regulations. I suggest the same should be applied to the UK as a whole (although obviously the criteria used to determine what “full” is, will be different). However, once we consider what level of population we wish to support being resident in the UK, the criteria that determine “full” and hence the level of housing provision etc. fall naturally into place.

    >let me refer you to the population of the city of Tokyo
    Yes, Tokyo is interesting; as are Paris and New York. I suggest that what these cities tell us is that we don’t actually need to use ANY greenfield land to satisfy the identified need for new housing, since these all have a significantly higher population density than London!

    >Or is your real concern …
    I think you are falling into the popular knee-jerk response to mention’s of the need to manage “immigration”, rather than reading what is actually being said; it has been a long time since the UK population could be considered to be wholly ‘white’ and spoke a single language (if ever the UK did speak a single language).

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