If like me, you live in an area that has seen considerable growth in housing (with more planned) you might question the view that Britain is facing a property shortage of over a million homes in the next eight to ten years. It can seems that small and large developments spring up, individually designed homes appear in spaces we barely noticed were there and acres of green fields can disappear in a matter of months. Not bad news for the builders amongst us…but why aren’t we able to meet the demand for new homes.
North South Divide?
The level of crisis is varied with the heaviest demand in the South East where, according to recent reports, the demand for new homes is recorded at 70% with supply currently only meeting 50% of this. Potentially the knock on effect is a shortage of services in the public sectors as more nursing, teaching and other staff are forced out of the housing market and area, by rising property prices as the demand outweighs supply. Lack of demand further North and in the Midlands has ironically seen a decline in urban areas where the need is not so acute and in fact in some areas, is low enough to result in empty and abandoned property.
80,000 homes needed
“This is a big challenge for our country. We have got to build more homes.” George Osbourne recently quoted.
Reports are now suggestive of the idea that policy makers start to recognise that a supply of new and affordable homes is hugely important for the prosperity of the UK. Lord Best, a Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and author of a working paper on this subject stated that the bulk of the new homes could go on recycled ‘brownfield’ sites. He added that this would only happen with positive planning, land assembly and decontamination of polluted sites and said that investment in older areas is also vital from an environmental, social and economic view. He also commented that the Government’s target of building 60% of new homes on ‘brownfield’ sites, if achieved, would still mean somewhere in the region of 80,000 plus homes being built on undeveloped ‘greenfield’ sites. Urban extensions using innovative and attractive designs to build higher densities are urged, extending existing towns and cities rather than developing new towns. In this way existing public transport routes and schools, shops and facilities can be accessed. Sounds like a plan…
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has a history of tackling the root causes of social problems and injustices with the foundation being established by Joseph Rowntree in 1904 with the purpose of building the garden village of New Earswick near York which still exists today. The foundation provides housing, care homes, retirement and supported housing so are in an ideal position to comment on the situation. This philanthropist and very successful business man hoped his legacy would be used to improve society, to tackle the causes of social issues rather than treating the symptoms. He set up three trusts all of which are still based in York, each working independently but still looking to achieve his aims.