The UK housing crisis: Where are we and how did we get here

28th September 2021
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The UK housing crisis: Where are we and how did we get here

Buying a home – or even renting, has become off-limits to thousands of families across the UK thanks to rising costs, pay freezes and a significant lack of affordable housing, and the housing crisis is only getting worse.

For decades the housing crisis has remained, the costs of buying a home have risen faster than peoples’ wages, leaving a lot of families in unsuitable, overcrowded temporary homes. Young people are finding it tough to even find a place to rent and the crisis left them living with their parents even longer. 

Private renting means that people often end up in debt, losing their homes or spending all of their wages on rent leaving little for anything else. Affordable social housing is also hard to come by, with over 1.2 million, just in England, on social housing waiting lists according to the latest figures. 

Where is the housing crisis up to now? With even more families thrust into debt off the back of the pandemic and many projects put on hold or suffering long delays, the situation is looking a whole lot worse. How can we fix the problem? How do you fix a crisis that has issues with policies and planning spanning decades? There is no one answer to this. Simply building more homes won’t work. 

We need to build differently. Sadly, the pandemic has made housing even more unaffordable for young people so we need a fresh approach that includes the building of more homes but in high demand areas, like major towns and cities. Modern methods of construction (MMC) and new skills are needed to innovate the sector and build new kinds of homes. 

Building homes offsite in factories can speed up the process and get more homes out to areas that need them. These methods enable homes to be built quickly, to a higher standard and at an overall cheaper price. The National Housing Foundation, which represents housing associations across England, says that research from the National Audit Office has suggested that if MMC is used more widely compared with traditional methods, we could build up to 4 more times as many homes. 

The fallout from the pandemic has left millions of people worried about paying for rent, bills and food. The government’s furlough scheme is coming to an end, which is expected to significantly increase the number of redundancies, and the temporary £20 per week universal credit boost that the government introduced in response to the pandemic is also set to be cut. 

All of this not only means that families are set to face a very difficult winter, but that it’s only making the housing crisis worse. Families will end up losing their homes, and end up on a never-ending social housing waiting list in unsuitable temporary accommodation. The government simply needs to do more, a targeted package of grants to help people keep their homes will provide relief to councils and housing associations right across the UK. Housing support in the benefits system also needs to be reformed so that it reflects the average costs of renting in that specific area. 

Sorting out pay would also help, high housing costs but low wages have resulted in many not being able to afford high rents. It also leaves people struggling to save for the deposit needed to buy a home. We need a continued commitment to increase the national living wage and an end to pay freezes across the public sector. 

Finally, we need to build more affordable homes. Research for the National Housing Federation and Crisis, which was carried out by Heriot-Watt University, says that 145,000 affordable homes need to be built annually for the next five years. Of this number, 90,000 a year should be social rent homes.

Check out some of our case studies to find some examples of how we’ve provided a solution to the housing crisis.

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