The housing crisis isn’t about numbers, behind every number is a human need
There is no doubt that the UK faces a housing crisis.
We live on a small island with a growing population and we need to double the number of new housing starts from approximately 125,000 a year to 250,000 if we’re to have any hope of keeping-up with demand.
I have no doubt that, in the run-up to the election, you’ll hear a wide variety of suggestions as to how we may crack that problem, but if we’re to make real inroads, we need to ensure we really understand the true nature of the problem.
And the problem isn’t just about a shortage of housing. It’s also about the type of housing we build. We don’t just need family homes, we also need more first-time buyer homes, more social housing, more retirements homes, more properties for ‘empty nesters’ wanting to downsize (and therefore free-up family homes for those wanting to take a step up the housing ladder) and more rental properties.
We also need to acknowledge changing social trends. For example, the youth generation are going to university in far higher numbers than in the past. There is therefore a need for more student accommodation, multi-units and houses in multiple occupation. When they start work they are also choosing (and not just out of necessity) to rent before committing to property. First-time buyers are therefore getting older, the number of single-parent families and single person households are on the increase, people wanting to have children are struggling to find affordable family homes and the number of people in retirement is increasing.
All of these groups have different needs and we need to ensure we fully understand those needs as we develop our housing policy.
It’s easy to say ‘build more houses’, but they need to be of the right type. Addressing the housing shortage isn’t simply a numbers game, because behind every number is a human need. Let’s make sure we understand that human dimension so that we build the right type, as well as the right number, of new houses.
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