184,000 homes were built in England in 2017 – the highest number since 2008 – and the Prime Minister, Theresa May said she was committed to making “the British dream a reality by reigniting home ownership in Britain once again”.
Yet, with house prices rising by 3.2 per cent YoY, and the latest news revealing that 33 per cent of ‘millennials’ will never be homeowners, it’s clear there is still a crisis in this country. However, are we making a bigger deal out of this than we need to? Here are my four ways in which the UK’s housing crisis could be solved.
BUILD AFFORDABLE HOMES
Sure, new housing estates are being built, but drive past them and you’ll often find rows of mock-Georgian style houses, or four-bedroom townhouses that are totally out of reach for the first-time buyer.
New homes are being built, but if they’re too expensive, they won’t solve the current housing crisis. Instead, the government should focus on building more affordable, modest homes that the first-time buyer can realistically save a deposit for: think two or three-bed terraces or semi-detached.
By building affordable houses, millennials would have a glimmer of hope that getting a foot on the property ladder is on the horizon, it’s a step in the right direction to solving the housing crisis.
REDUCE INVESTOR POWER
One city where the crisis is increasingly apparent, is Manchester. Hailed by Deloitte as one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, of the 61 residential developments (14,667 flats and houses) the council granted permission to in 2016-2017, not one of them was deemed to be “affordable”.
In 2016, 50,000 people lived in Manchester city centre, and it’s expected to reach 80,000 by 2024. When you see the skyline constantly changing with an increase in high-rise flats, you’d assume that the city is catering to the demand. Yet, if you look closer, you’ll soon realise that for the first-time buyer, these flats are out of reach.
Much of the accommodation in Manchester city centre bars first-time buyers, clearly stating “investors only”. When you consider that the average rent of a two-bed city centre flat is £1,100 a month (before bills), for many millennials it makes sense to house share or live with parents to save a deposit… but even when they have the money, it’s deemed “not good enough”.
One way to help solve the housing crisis in cities is to stop many new developments from being bought for investment. A mix of buy-to-let and first-time buyers makes much more sense, to cope with demand.
ALTERNATIVE HOUSING OPTIONS
Some people who can’t afford to get their foot on the traditional property ladder due to the housing crisis, are looking at alternative means. Boats, shipping containers and sheds are just a few of the options for affordable accommodation.
However, for this to be viable in the future, we need to get rid of the attached stigma – especially when it comes to containers and sheds, as 70 per cent of people identify them as modular homes, and 41 per cent assume they are less durable than traditional builds. So, what is actually a low-cost solution to the housing problem, is currently being overlooked due to untrue assumptions – yet there are homes all over the world that are built from shipping containers, and are more cost-effective than traditional builds.
In fact, they can also help with the homelessness crisis this country faces – in Bristol, containers are being converted into liveable homes, for homeless people to move into. It’s a similar story in London too, with one project taking 290 people off the streets, giving them a safe place to stay.
RECONSIDER GREEN BELT LAND
This is sure to be a controversial point, but the fact is, there is a distinct lack of homes compared to demand, and more need to be built.
Green belt refers to areas of land that stop our countryside from being spoilt, and our cities from being too spoilt. Whilst there should definitely be areas protected from new developments being built, when you consider the fact that more of Surrey is covered in golf courses than houses, and Greater London’s green belt land could cover 1.6 million houses, then there is an issue at hand.
To solve the housing crisis, demand needs to be met, and that means identifying suitable areas where new – and affordable – housing can be built.
To conclude, there are 28 million houses and flats in the UK, and to meet the growth of demand, we need to build a minimum of 300,000 new houses every single year. There are numerous ways in which we can tackle the housing crisis to meet demand, combat homelessness, and help first-time buyers get their foot on the property ladder.