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Column 25th October 2017

The number of households has gone down, so do we need so many new homes?

The recent release of the Vale Local Plan Part 2 for final consultation and the consultation on the Housing Delivery Strategy have made me start thinking about housing need again.

Everyone believes that we need more housing, but according to Ian Mulheirn, Director of Consulting at Oxford Economics and former Treasury Economist, the number of houses has grown significantly faster than the number of households in the UK over the past 25 years; and the cost of housing — distinct from the price of houses — has been falling relative to prices and earnings since at least 2005.

Yet, although there might not be a national housing shortage, surely there must be a shortage in this part of the country?

Statistics from 2001 -2015 show that, in London and the South East, the number of households has grown by around 10% but there are almost 12% more houses — suggesting that supply has comfortably exceeded household growth in these regions since the turn of the century.

In fact, in England, in 2015 there were around 1.1 million more houses than households.

So why can’t people around us find affordable homes in this area?

So what are we doing wrong?

Where are all these surplus homes?

More statistics show that 1 in 10 UK adults, or 5.2 million people, own a second home, while four in 10 adults own no property at all.

3.4 million people have extra properties that they don’t rent out.

So we should be able to solve the housing crisis by making all of these people rent these homes to those that need them.

Simple isn’t it?

Well, not quite that simple.

These extra properties could include holiday homes, flats that adult kids live in for free, MPs and London executives with London flats and country houses, people who’ve inherited their recently deceased parents’ home and haven’t worked out what to do with it yet as well as empty properties people are speculating on.

The fact remains that there are homes empty and a lot of people making money by speculating on property development and a lot of people who are being priced out of the property market and the simple way to solve this is to use empty homes and build more affordably.

Perhaps all new developments should be either 100% affordable or social housing or both with conditions to preclude them being used as second homes?


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