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Housing needs to be at the heart of government

by: Paul Broadhead
  • 24/03/2015
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Housing needs to be at the heart of government
The latest English Housing Survey for 2013/14 showed that despite the extreme difficulty many first-time buyers face getting their foot on the housing ladder, Britain remains a nation of proud property lovers.

For the majority of people, owning a property remains a dominant aspiration with 61% of people expecting to buy their own home. However, given our continued inability to build sufficiently to meet demand, owner occupation as a trend is in decline.

In the 1980s with the introduction of Right to Buy and the liberalisation of financial services in the UK there was a rapid increase in ownership. In 1981 57% of people owned their own property and by 1988 that figure swelled to 65%.

Over the last decade owner occupancy has gradually declined to 63% in 2013/14.

In London, renting is already the dominant tenure. Overall 52% of people now rent across the capital in some form, compared to 48% in owner occupation.

The changing face of Britain’s housing market was the driving motivation behind the Building Societies Association’s recently published Housing Manifesto. We are deeply worried about the knock on impact that the lack of sufficient housing is having on communities, not to mention the effect on providers and intermediaries.

Government figures show in England there were 22.3 million households in 2012 and this is set to rise to 27.5 million by 2037. Our housing needs are not going to be met purely by the major private house builders. Analysis of the government’s housing figures show that since 1972 that only in 1988 did private house builders’ output exceed 170,000 properties.

There are alternatives out there: local authorities, housing associations, SME builders and custom builders all need help to expand their output. There are also alternative forms of building like offsite construction to radically reduce the time it takes to finish a home.

But all these elements need a champion in government and that’s why we are calling for the next government to develop a 15-year strategic housing plan, ranging across other factors such as infrastructure development too.

We need a revolution in the provision of new housing, in governance, planning, construction and funding, to ensure as a society we work to build a better Britain.

Paul Broadhead is head of mortgage policy, Building Societies Association

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