Have we really got a housing crisis?

publication date: Sep 17, 2015
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

Have we really got a housing crisis?

At 7.30pm on Monday 21st September across our nation, the BBC will be running a story about our housing crisis through their Inside Out programmes. Although some of the features will go national, there will be regional differences. Each programme will feature some new research which highlights how many homes we are short of in each individual area – and it’s a lot.

Last week I was kindly invited to a developer industry conference called RESI. We had amazing guests and speakers such as Alistair Darling, our last Chancellor and Lucian Cook from Savills research group who was presenting some amazing stuff on the different ways old and new generations look and feel about property. In addition there were two terrific chaps: Martin Skinner James Scott from The Collective who are both working incredibly hard on affordable new housing and community models.

My job that day was to discuss why we aren’t building more and the impact of the ‘housing crisis’. To be honest as I grow older I have realised I don’t worry so much about what people think of me, so I was fairly vocal.

The main point I wanted to get across was I don’t want a housing crisis in the UK. I don’t believe we should have one and I firmly believe we have the money/investment; the land and the people to solve the housing crisis at a regional level.

Do we really have a housing crisis everywhere?
The first point I made was we don’t have a housing crisis everywhere. Yes the highly successful international city of London does have an acute housing crisis. Other areas such as Brighton, Oxford, Edinburgh, Harrogate, they too have a housing crisis.

BUT we don’t have one everywhere. I can’t see a particular problem in Sunderland in the private sector. It’s easy to find a good value property to rent or buy, same in a lot of areas of Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham, Leeds and even areas like Slough, Reading, Swindon have a lot of homes which are accessible, at least to couples with two wages.

The problem is if you are in your 20s and constantly being told you will never be able to afford a property, why would you even bother engaging in the process of looking?

There are some fantastic housing solutions out there
What my piece is for the BBC is about what people are doing about it.

In London you have James and Martin coming up with a different way of living, here’s what they do: There is another great company run by Mark Vlessing called Pocket Living, he is producing homes in London for under £250k, when the average first time buyer would expect to pay £300k or more.

And in London you can almost not move for the number of new shared ownership and affordable homes being built, both to buy and for those who prefer flexible living renting.

In the East Midlands we have some awesome solutions to the housing crisis which are happening NOW, so the programme features:-

  1. Private renting like you have never seen it before!

  2. Brand new council homes being built in a previously ‘no go’ area.

  3. A new way to build your own home without having a breakdown, called Custom Build.

The problem is we are so used to talking about a housing crisis we forget sometimes to be absolutely determined to solve it – especially when it’s such a political hot potato.

But if the government, local authorities, housing associations and industry pull together, rather than blame the crisis on each other, we can solve this housing crisis.

Like James and Martin from the Collective, it’s time to stop ‘giving in’ to there being a housing crisis and start doing something about it.

I for one won’t accept we have a housing crisis everywhere. To solve it, let’s start by:-

  1. Identifying where there isn’t a housing crisis so people in those areas can relax, save and get on the ladder as they wish. For example, first time buyers need a 5% deposit, not the ‘average deposit’ which is often quoted in the press pretending this is ‘what they need’. It isn’t, first time buyers need a lot less.

  2. Change our attitude towards new build. Brand news homes are great news for jobs, the economy and are energy efficient. Developers and planners need to engage via local plans with their local communities to work out what to build and where (and by the way around 50% of local councils haven’t bothered to produce a plan yet! Is your local authority one of them?)

  3. Governments and local authorities have to accept that the private rented sector can’t be ‘squeezed’ to deliver the social housing needs they have failed to do. Blaming landlords and letting agents for the current housing benefit bill is ridiculous. Successive governments wanted to move people from social housing to private. They sold off over a million social homes to the private sector.

Today’s average tenant is paying far less a month to rent than they would buying with a 95% mortgage and in many areas across the country, tenants pay 30% of their earnings or less to rent. Rental inflation (ONS figures) is just 2% in the private rented sector – it rises less than inflation, what more could you ask for?

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