Time to Tackle our Housing Crisis

For people, for neighbourhoods, for the economy, for aspiration, for the strivers and all of those who do the right thing, we must say Yes to homes.

Can you afford your home? If you want to buy your own home can you afford to build the average deposit of £50,000? Are you confident about where your children will live or your parents as they get older?

If you can answer 'yes' to all these questions, you are very lucky. For millions of people the answer is a deeply troubling 'no'. And it's getting worse.

Our report 'Home Truths 2012' found that in the last three years, 420,000 more working people have had to seek the support of housing benefit to pay their ever increasing rent - an astonishing 86% increase in the last three years alone. These numbers are rising by around 10,000 households every single month.

These people now relying on benefits to pay their rent are the 'strivers', the people who work hard and are trying get on in life, doing the right thing as David Cameron said at his recent party conference. These are working people who still can't keep up with the rising cost of renting. For far too many people, their rent is taking up 40% or more of their income. In the private sector rents have risen by over a third in the past five years, and are set to continue at the same alarming rate. That is simply unsustainable.

Of course, there are more and more people in private renting because they long ago gave up the dream of being able to buy their own home. In ten years, incomes have risen by 29% while house prices have risen by 94%. What was already tough has become impossible. It's made even harder now by the scale of deposits mortgage lenders ask for. Ten years ago an average deposit was equivalent to nine months pay. Now it's equivalent to three years pay. So strivers, the people doing the right thing, are locked out of buying their own home.

What an unholy mess. We all know there's a recession and the economy is flat lining, but that's not what has caused this mess. Put simply (and yes, the cause is very simple) we haven't been building enough new homes for 25 years. That has become particularly acute recently, which has made an already bad position even worse. There are 62 million people in the UK and that number continues to rise. 390,000 new households were created last year but we only built 110,000 new homes.

This creates havoc. The short supply of houses increases demand, pushing up the cost to buy and rent them. The impact of this mismatch is that it's desperately difficult for people trying to make ends meet and support their children. It undermines confidence and diminishes personal aspiration. When people can't afford the homes they need it stops them from moving for work, it prevents young couples starting families. Ambition is stopped in its tracks.

It's economically disastrous for the country too. One of the biggest constraints on growth is when businesses can't expand because there are no homes for the people they want to employ. Failure to build new homes puts construction workers on the dole and means that far fewer people are buying paint and wallpaper, carpets and curtains.

If the cause of all this is simple, the answer is equally simple. We need to build more homes. That's it. We can try to ration better, or take in lodgers, or move people around to make better use of what we've got but none of that will make any real difference. The gap between supply and demand continues to grow. As it does, rents will go up further (up a staggering 35% over the next six years), house values will rise again, the cost of housing benefit will increase and the personal price paid by individuals and families will become ever more acute. What happens if you can't afford to buy and can't afford to rent? Where are you meant to live?

The situation is so serious now, and for the next generation that we need to create a noise that can't be ignored, so that the next election is fought on who promises to build the biggest number of new homes. Let's cut to the chase. For people, for neighbourhoods, for the economy, for aspiration, for the strivers and all of those who do the right thing, we must say Yes to homes.



What's Hot