Obstacles and Opportunities

By: Steve Akehurst  Published: January 2014


A brief and easy to understand overview of England's housing shortage, its symptoms and how to solve it.

Summary

England’s housing shortage no longer just affects those on low incomes – the middle is now feeling the squeeze too. More and more are stuck in short term lets in an unstable and expensive private rented sector, with little prospect of anything better.

With the security and stability of home ownership slipping out of reach for increasing numbers of voters, low and middle income families feel anxious about their children’s future housing prospects. No one party has yet to speak to this anxiety.

This is problem which has built up over successive Governments. No one party is solely to blame, and there is no silver bullet to fixing things.

But the current solutions are not working. Help to Buy threatens to make home ownership more unaffordable, not less, while reductions in public investment have reduced the supply of affordable housing

The only answer is an ambitious programme of both investment and reform, to build the 250,000 new homes a year that we need in England. We are currently far short of that, and are set to be so for the foreseeable future.

Efforts need to focus on three areas: (1) providing more and smarter investment (2) improving the supply of land and (3) greater competition among house builders.

Equally important is what we build. Alongside more social homes, a major new generation of shared ownership homes will meet the needs and aspirations of families on average incomes.

Doing nothing is the worst option of all. Fixing our housing shortage will not be easy, but it can be done.

There is a huge political opportunity with this issue and the way it speaks to voters’ everyday experiences and aspirations.

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