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NatCen on the Election: Homing in on Housebuilding

Posted on 01 June 2017 by NatCen, Research .
Tags: NatCen on the Election, housebuying, housing

Both Labour and the Conservatives have set out their stalls on how they will mend the ‘dysfunctional’ housing market and boost home ownership. House building is at the heart of both parties’ pledges. The Conservatives have reiterated their 2015 commitment to delivering 1 million homes by 2020 and promise a further half a million by the end of 2022, while Labour say they will build a million new homes, with at least half of those council houses. But do the promises they make reflect what the public really want?

We’ve asked the public whether they support or oppose new homes being built in their local area at regular intervals since 2010, when support stood at 29%. By 2016, the last time we asked this question, support had almost doubled to 57%. 

So it would seem that for whoever forms the next government, it’s a good time to embark on an ambitious programme of house building.

Except that as the Resolution Foundation points out in its blog, Looking for a house and home, no parliament has presided over the construction of more than a million new homes since 1987-1992.

But of course the public don’t just want any old type of home, they want affordable homes. As a result of the British Social Attitudes survey we know that that people want homes built in their area that people on an average income can afford. When we specified this affordability in our questioning, support for new home building rose from 57% to 73%. But how do the parties plan on delivering these affordable new homes?

As well as adding more new homes to the housing stock in order to increase supply and reduce prices, Labour says it will also scrap Right to Buy to protect affordable homes. The Conservatives explicitly state that the key to creating more affordable homes ‘is to build enough homes to meet demand’. So it would seem there is a lot resting on the two parties being able to meet their home building targets, especially for the Conservatives.  

Figures published by the Department for Communities and Local Government show that the number of new builds started since 2015 don’t add up to the 200,000 needed annually to meet the Conservative’s 2020 target (across the UK a total of 177,290 new builds went into construction in 2015, results for the last quarter in 2016 have not yet published but the figure for that year currently stands at 141,430). And yet, these figures aren’t a millions miles off and there is some evidence that home building levels are recovering after the 2007/8 financial crisis, in England at least.

In the end, will the manifesto promises made by Labour and the Conservatives make any difference to home ownership in the UK? The latest results from the English Housing Survey 2016 reveal a country where the proportion who own their home outright, 34%, is greater than the proportion with a mortgage, 29%. This is despite the fact that for many non-home owners, home ownership is still an important aspiration. A study we carried out for Yorkshire Building Society show that the majority of people aged between 18 to 40, 62%, who don’t own their own home want to one day, either outright or with the help of a mortgage or loan. It remains to be seen whether either the Conservatives or Labour can help the public into the homes that they want.

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