Azara Blog: UK is unlikely to build three million new homes by 2020

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Date published: 2008/06/08

The BBC says:

Ministers are "very unlikely" to achieve housing targets, the UK's chief advisor on home building has warned.

Professor Stephen Nickell said that, unless conditions change, the target of three million new homes in England by 2020 will not be met.

To get to this target, the housing industry needs to be building 240,000 homes a year, a figure that few think they will achieve this year.

The industry is already behind in its construction targets.

Just over 200,000 new homes were built last year.

Homebuilders have cut back new building this year as a lack of mortgage products and falling house prices have cut demand.

Mr Nickell, who heads the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit, believes that alongside the financial constraints local authorities are also holding up new house building.

"Unless local authorities are given a strong incentive to allow house building in their locality, it seems to me very unlikely that we will hit the housing targets," he said.

"And if you don't keep building these houses the prices just keep going up relative to people's incomes."
Figures from the Nationwide this month showed a 2.5% drop in house prices in May, with some predicting a 20% drop by the end of 2008.

But despite falling house prices, Professor Nickell said the current situation seemed to be only benefiting the richer parts of society.

"The wealthier people in society can satisfy their housing demands, more or less, as they get richer. While the rest of us get squashed into smaller and smaller houses." he said.

And he added that if present trends continue, things are looking bleak for the future of housing in England.

"If the present situation continues we will be less well housed than the majority of people in Europe, Australia or the United States," he said.

This is all pretty obvious, if hardly ever stated. Given the looming recession and given that the Tories are about to take over the country, and are very anti-house building, it seems extremely unlikely that the UK will build anywhere near 3m new houses by 2020. On the other hand, it's also not clear exactly how many new houses the UK will need by then. After the eastern European countries joined the EU, there was a massive wave of immigration into the UK. But there are already indications this wave is already starting to go the other way, and given that the Tories are Little Englanders (i.e. xenophobic), they will actively encourage this trend when they take over, so perhaps the country doesn't need 3m new houses by 2020.

Nickells' comments about how the housing for most people is getting worse and worse cannot be over-emphasized. The academic middle class people who run Britain (and the BBC) seem to spend most of their time actively trying to make the standard of living of the average citizen worse, not better.

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