The Tories must give us houses – or pack up and move

Successive Conservative governments let the housing crisis spiral out of control. If they don't want to tackle it, someone else should be at the helm.

After eight years in power, the Government still has to get to grips with a rapidly expanding housing crisis.

The most recent research by housing campaigners projects that as many as 4 million homes are needed to meet demand; including a backlog of housing needs unmet since the Tories came to power in 2010.

The research estimates that to tackle both the backlog of required homes and to keep up with emerging demand, the UK will need to build 340,000 homes for each and every year until 2031. This is way ahead of the Government’s original annual target of 200,000 and still above the revised target of 300,000.

Annual average house-building achieved by the Government since 2010 is just 139,000.

So every year there is a shortfall that contributes further to the backlog of housing required and ramps up the total needed over the next decade or so.

Where the Government spectacularly falls down is in supporting the provision of affordable housing. The number of affordable homes built last year was down to under 22,000. But, of the 340,000 home annual estimate, the recommended amount of affordable homes to be built is actually 145,000. Worst still, of the 145,000 affordable homes required, 90,000 should be for social rent the projections suggest. However, under 500 social homes were built last year.

This is why homelessness, rough sleeping, and the use of expensive temporary accommodation, such as B&B hotels, have all ballooned since 2010.

The affordability of home ownership and private renting remain major barriers for people, especially the young, to meet their housing needs.

Average house prices in the UK have increased by 4.2% in the year to March 2018 (unchanged from February 2018). The average house price is now £224,000 – that’s £9,000 higher than a year ago.

Regionally, London continues to record the highest average house price at £472,000, followed by the South East and the East of England, which stood at £321,000 and £291,000 respectively.

The average house price is now almost eight times average earnings – and more than nine times the average for newly-build housing.

There has been a slowdown in the rate of increase of private rents across the country, and some price falls in parts of London. But private rents were already very high following a decade of growth, so affordability is only improved slightly at the margins.

Housing minister, Dominic Raab MP, had an undistinguished start to his term, when he tried to blame a worsening housing affordability squeeze on immigration. Quoting decade-old dodgy data from a defunct think-tank, he was roundly rebuked by housing campaigners and professionals. His tenure is probably going to be a short one, if he is anything like his six predecessors in eight years. This ‘Faragist’ approach to linking societal ills to immigration, while burnishing Raab’s Brexit credentials, shows an attachment to fake news, and does not bode well for his ability to solve the worst housing crisis in decades.

It’s high time the Government looked at the real figures and tackled this housing crisis accordingly. If it will not, it should consider stepping aside and letting those willing to solve such an regressive social plight take the helm.

Kevin Gulliver is Director of Birmingham-based research charity the Human City Institute, is former Chair of the Centre for Community Research, and part of the SHOUT save social housing campaign, but writes in a personal capacity. 

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