The number of homes built in England has lagged behind demand for housing for decades. The effects of this long-running shortfall in housing reveal themselves in the growing barriers people face in getting on the property ladder, or simply affording their rent. The human costs are emphasised by the growing problem of homelessness, with the number of families living in temporary accommodation rising from 50,000 in 2011–12 to 72,000 in 2015–16. Almost 120,000 children in England live in temporary accommodation today.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (the Department) has an ambition to deliver 1 million new homes over the five years of this Parliament. But despite acknowledging that the housing market in England is “broken”, it remains dependent on the existing market, which is dominated by a handful of private developers, to realise its ambition. Even if this is achieved, the Department acknowledges that it will not come close to meeting the actual level of housing need, so problems of affordability and homelessness are likely to persist for years to come. The Department’s lack of ambition on such a fundamental issue is matched by a lack of information, in particular on the impacts and value for money of the roughly £21 billion the government spends each year on housing benefit. The Department has recently published a White Paper outlining proposals for accelerating housebuilding, and we look forward to monitoring the development of its programmes.
25 April 2017