The Lyons Review: Britain’s housing crisis – and how we solve it

Labour has published its plans on how it will deliver 200,000 homes a year in the UK.

Labour has published its plans on how it will deliver 200,000 homes a year in the UK

Published this morning, the 180 page report from the Lyons Review of housing opens with recognition of the extent of the housing crisis a Labour government will face next May. Two or more decades of under-supply, house prices eight times average incomes, worsening rental affordability, increased overcrowding and growing homelessness are just a few of aspects of this burgeoning crisis.

But fashioning solutions to such a deep crisis is not so easy – and so it proves with the Lyons Review report.

While the report recognises that housing must become a priority for the nation again as it was in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the proposals are a starting point for tackling the crisis rather than a means of solving it.

The central proposal is that 200,000 homes will be produced yearly by 2020. The problem here is that this target is at the bottom end of the range that housing experts say is required to meet the nation’s housing needs. The more accepted 250,000 annual target leaves the Lyons proposals quite a shortfall over a Parliament. Also, every year that this target is unmet up until 2020, stores up additional demand into the future.

Despite this central issue, the report sets out a plan to start tackling the underlying causes of the housing crisis, including making housing investment a priority for a future Labour government and dismantling barriers to freeing-up land for house-building.

Key proposals include:

  • New Homes Corporations with powers to facilitate building on land with local authorities empowered to enforce land release from developers, including strengthened compulsory purchase powers.
  • The creation of at least five new towns including two in south-east England to alleviate demand in the most sough-after region with the highest house prices.
  • A more competitive construction industry with expansion of the number of smaller building companies.
  • While there will be no lifting of local authorities’ borrowing caps – a Balls red line – councils will be able to share caps so that spare capacity in one area can support house building elsewhere.
  • Local authorities will also be equipped with fresh powers to curtail the Right-to-Buy social homes for buy-to-let purposes and to tackle empty homes, of which there are almost 1 million in the UK.
  • Enabling local people to have first refusal on homes built in their area for up to two months, which some are interpreting as a political answer to the rise of UKIP by establishing a residential qualification for access to new housing, so potentially cutting out new migrants.

Building greater capacity in the construction industry is seen as a way of creating 230,000 new jobs while adding 1.2 per cent to GDP. Lyons also proposes ways to ensure that councils play a bigger role as house builders after forty years of decline and to unlock the capacity and ambition of housing associations to play a bigger role in investment and delivery of new homes.

The report very much centres upon new supply with little on the way homes are managed in future. In social housing, for instance, there are no proposals to extend mutual approaches providing tenants with opportunities to manage their homes and communities and so tackle deep-seated inequalities in wealth between renters and home owners.

Even so, the Lyons Review report represents the most comprehensive assessment of the nation’s housing crisis since the Barker Review and should be welcomed as a good starting point for a new Labour government.

Kevin Gulliver is director of Birmingham-based research charity the Human City Institute and chair of the Centre for Community Research but writes in a personal capacity

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26 Responses to “The Lyons Review: Britain’s housing crisis – and how we solve it”

  1. Dave Roberts

    This isn’t even wishful thinking, it’s fantasy written by someone who has no knowledge of the building industry, politics or land law. I’ll dissect it later.

  2. Guest

    You’ll get round to attacking even the basic proposals which might do a very little to stop your slum price rises.

  3. Leon Wolfeson

    * Councils already have plenty of seizure powers. They don’t use them
    * New towns, rather than brownfield building
    * Artificial tinkering with the market, doing little to nothing except raise prices
    * A red line on borrowing for assets, and tinkering around that when there’s a shortage across the UK
    * Not ending RTB altogether
    * Tinkering with market sales, meaning that there will be a delay in homes entering the market Making it far harder for people to move, at the same time, so hurting the middle class when their jobs move.

    It’s all very unambitious, and muddled. It’ll do little to nothing.
    Moreover, the “aim” is to build 200k houses total, including all sources.

    We should be looking at;

    * Rent caps, on area and energy efficiency
    * Tax on empty houses
    * Tax on brownfield land, scaling up every year it’s left empty. Land can be given to the council in lieu of tax.
    * 200k council houses per year, from 2016, paid for with new borrowing (only).

    This does not “stores up additional demand into the future”, it leads to price rises today, at a time when wages and benefits are in decline, and will be declining for the indefinite future.

  4. littleoddsandpieces

    The housing crisis will not be solved by building more new homes. These houses are for those with upper income in posh villages, when the problem is affordable homes to buy or rent, especially in London.

    New houses on greenfield sites, build homes without the infastructure to deal with greater traffic congestion and access to GPs, schools and other facilities.

    These houses are just commuter belt homes that eat up the countryside.

    There are a huge number of empty terraced houses that could be turned into social housing with affordable capped rents.

    The Left Unity Party (a party that started in 2014 and went from zero to nearly 10 per cent in the May 22 elections) has workable solutions to end homelessness and lack of affordable housing at:

    And The Greens’ housing policy is at:

    With a basic principle of:

    HO301 The Green Party recognises a universal human right to shelter, including boats, vans, caravans and housing which is secure, has basic facilities and is affordable.

    The Greens’ further policies on housing:
    Resources for housing

    HO401… To address these problems the Green Party proposes Empty Property Use Orders (see HO904), increased public land / property ownership

    HO412 The Green Party would implement a ‘Right to Rent’ policy. Home owners who are unable to meet their mortgage payments and are under threat of repossession would have a right to transfer ownership to the council, at less than market value, in exchange for the right to remain in the home and pay rent as council tenants. There would be limits on the size and value of house covered by this policy and it would only apply to a sole house owned and occupied by a family or individual. The cost to the council would be covered by government grants or public loans.

    The Greens are far better in their policies about the poor, welfare and pensions and pensioners. It might be better for Labour to do a coalition pact with The Greens, and leave those issues to The Greens in government in 2015.

  5. Dave Roberts

    Keep taking the pills.

  6. Guest

    Stop trying to give your medication to other people.

  7. Guest

    LU also supports Hamas, don’t forget that, and bullying of Jewish people, so it’s safe spaces policy is a joke and the left should avoid them as the SWP is avoided.

  8. Joe Bloggs

    Five NEW towns!!
    Where? Will there be any countryside left?
    Housing half of Europe here, it’s no surprise there’s a housing problem.

  9. Guest

    Keep blaming the Other, as you ignore 34 years of insufficient house building.

    So, what % of British people should live on the streets? 25%? 30%?

  10. SimonB

    The proposals for new building needs to do more than simply extrapolate regional trends, otherwise the South East will end up concreted over and draining all the wealth and talent from the rest of the country. I’m pleased that this seems to be acknowledged, though perhaps not quite as much as necessary. The other things that might be added are a land value tax, a close look at the VAT costs for house repairs and renovations compared to new build and some means to restrain the added cost of land as soon as planning permission is granted upon it.

  11. JoeDM

    4 milliion immigrants in the last 10 years.
    If anyone, they’re the ones who should be on the streets. Not British people.

  12. Matthew Tysoe


  13. Matthew Tysoe

    So we carry on building houses until we have little room left? Do you even realise the environmental damage that would cause?

    We dont want the SE England to be like Mali without the sunshine.

  14. GhostofJimMorrison

    Lame comeback, Wolfey. You can do better than that, pal.

  15. Guest

    Keep blaming the Other, and talking about a decade.

    Your simple denial of 34 years of insufficient housing, as you call for no housing for many British people. who evidently you dislike…

  16. Guest

    Your “We” want British poor people dotted all over the streets, homeless, like any third-world slum, though.

    You’re ignoring, of course, the facts about housing, the large amounts of unused brownfield land, etc, as you keep trying to keep your properties values up.

  17. Leon Wolfeson

    A LVT ends up paid by the people living there – it’s regressive and hits poor tennants.

  18. Guest


    Poverty causes environmental damage, poor people don’t care about the environment, they care about where tomorrow’s food’s coming from. Moreover, poor people have higher birth rates.

    Your brownfield land should be put back into use.

  19. Guest

    Dave, I was using facts. That you think I should lie like you..

  20. Carol

    Do any of those talking about ‘no room’ have any idea what the current percentage of developed land is in this country. I think they should find out , when they do, presumably from the comfort of their own home , they will be able to revise their simplistic arguments and enjoy the possibility of othesr having the opportunity to be appropriately housed .

  21. swat

    Brilliant. Should speed up development particularly CPOs, taking land off people just be sitting on an asset and not doing anything with it. We need draconian action, and a little less allowing developers to do as they plaes.

  22. LarryH77

    Ridiculous. Just 5.4% of England is homes and gardens.

  23. LarryH77

    Roughly 5 million more old people alive vs 30 years ago due to increased life expectancy.

    Accelerating as well, there will be 50% more over-65s in 20 years.

  24. LarryH77

    Council tax is massively more regressive.

  25. LarryH77

    Are you on crack, read it and look at the list of people in the industry that submitted evidence and recommendations.

  26. Leon Wolfeson

    That’s highly arguable. It’s based on *property* value and it’s got lots of exemptions, etc.
    If your proposal is even remotely revenue-neutral, it’s regressive.

    (You can’t provide compensation as per CT as it’s paid by the Landlord directly and the tenants indirectly, thus being included in rents. This thus affects all the previously exempt catagories!)

    Moreover, a LVT has an awful lot of issues in that it pushes for the most “economic” use of the land, which mitigates strongly for overcrowding and against green and community spaces, and of course it has major issues I’ve never seen resolved well such as making it uneconomic to live above a shop.

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