One thing you may have noticed as you go about your business, apart from unpredictable weather and a lot of debate about Brexit is one or more housing developments . Anything from single detached properties in rural locations to 2 or 3 dwellings sandwiched into spaces you may not have thought possible. Add to that the full blown developments of sites to provide hundreds of homes you might be forgiven for not recognising that the UK is still in the grip of a housing shortage.
Switch on your television and somewhere there will be a programme about homes. Building, renovating, relocating or even worse, the chance to look at dream homes that to you will remain exactly that… a dream!
Despite all this and the buoyancy of the construction industry, coupled with low interest rates for mortgages and a commitment to make it easier for first time buyers, there remains a housing problem. The number of homes built annually cannot meet the demand and hasn’t been able to for the last 8 years. The gap has become even wider over the last few years which is good for house prices and those already on the property ladder but more and more likely to become an impossible dream for others still looking to be part of the ‘home ownership party.’ That of course is just one side of the story – the other side being the lack of affordable or social housing with the responsibility for this type of build now sitting with non-profit housing associations rather than your local authority.
There are many reasons cited for the gap between supply and demand which include planning constraints, shortage of land and protected green belt areas as we try to keep the distinction between urban and rural. The government has made changes to policy in the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in an attempt to make it more of a challenge for local authorities to refuse planning consent. They also added new permitted development rights to allow conversions of buildings previously with a different use to be converted into homes. Planning approvals it however show no noticeable rise for the type of homes most needed.
It might surprise you then to learn that across the UK there are around 630,000 empty homes with just over 200,000 that have been so for more than 6 months. With around 2 million families on the housing list it seems unbelievable that this is the case and begs the question why? What won’t surprise you is the speed at which empty properties fall into disrepair and the impact this has on the community – before you know it whole streets are boarded up. Now and then councils become innovative and bring in schemes to sell run down properties for £1 in an attempt to regenerate less desirable or run down areas. It’s not a new concept and used to be known as homesteading and there are conditions attached as to who qualifies and how long they have to live there. As an option it’s much better (though not necessarily more economical) than bull dozing old traditional properties with the intention of building new homes and for those people who paid 50p back in 1999 for homes in Newcastle that are now worth 6 figures – they’re probably laughing all the way to the bank.