Who Should be Digging the UK out of Housing’s Affordability Hole?

With the cost of owning a home in the UK prohibiting many people from ever becoming owner-occupiers I would like to kick-off the following discussion: should the national government be assuming more responsibility for housing supply, and therefore, pricing dynamics across the UK?  Socially, economically and morally I see an argument for the government stepping in and forcing the construction of greater unit numbers to ease affordability in our areas of greatest housing need.

However, ignoring the ease (or difficulty!) with which this could be achieved, I could not support this policy.  It flies in the face of the UK’s proud open-market principles and despite the latest NHBC statistics showing that applications for new housing starts tailed off 15% in June I would argue the market needs to find a solution to the growing housing waiting list rather than a prescriptive, top-down ‘solution’…

The increasing number of single-person households continues to put pressure on the housing system, having doubled in the space of the last 30 years as the number of people housed in each home has steadily decreased.  Government estimates now suggest that by 2020 we could require as many homes for a single occupant as for married couples or families.  This represents a radical social change even in comparison with the early 90s, when single-person households occupied less than half the housing stock across the country.

I have seen projections suggesting there are around 4.5 million people on a housing waiting list at present. Not to mention all those would-be buyers currently trapped in rental property, unable to get a mortgage as challenging income multiples make a comfortable LTV ratio simply unattainable.  The NHF suggests an additional 570,000 people are likely to find themselves on a housing waiting list by 2020.  With waiting lists at record levels already someone has to assume responsibility for lowering housing costs and increasing the convenient of housing residents across our country. In my view, it should be the market, not Westminster.

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