Levying up

Think tank: Centre for Social Justice

Author(s): Dr Sam Bruce

December 12, 2022

This report from UK think tank the Centre for Social Justice looks at ensuring planning reform delivers affordable homes.

A longstanding shortage of affordable housing is worsening the UK’s housing crisis. The Government’s proposal to level up affordable housing through a new ‘Infrastructure Levy’ is liable to make a bad situation worse. A safe, secure, comfortable home environment is a vital foundation for everyone to flourish. A great home enables families to enjoy quality time together. It encourages children to develop and grow. It is a springboard for workers and volunteers to serve their communities productively. When life throws us its hardest and most challenging moments, a good home should be a place of consolation, comfort, and support. And yet, for a growing proportion of the population, this is not a reality. Whilst Britain is sometimes thought of as a “nation of homeowners”, this trend has been declining since its peak 2003. Meanwhile, the price of residential property—to rent or to buy—has become increasingly unaffordable, especially for households with low incomes and means of saving.

Analysis of national statistics bears this out:

  • New CSJ analysis shows that housing affordability for keyworkers is declining in all sectors and in all regions of England. This has negative repercussions, including for health and social care.
  • 71% of households were owner-occupiers in 2003, but this declined to 65% in December 2021
  • 1.2 million households are on the waiting list for social housing
  • Overcrowding in the Private and Social Rented Sectors has risen sharply since the mid-90s
  • Each day, over 120,000 children are living in Temporary Accommodation.
  • Each year, the Government spends a staggering £30bn on housing benefits Whilst there is a range of factors behind the crisis, the chronic undersupply of affordable homes over many years is a crucial cause. As our population has increased through decades of positive net migration, and as we are living increasingly longer, more accommodation is needed that people can afford to live in. Again, statistics speak for themselves:
  • We have not met our national target of 300,000 new homes since 1969. Just 6,051 homes for social rent were delivered in England in 2020-2021, and 7,528 in 2021-2022; vastly smaller than the 90,000 that are needed.
  • Fewer than one in four people believe the Government’s definition of ‘affordable housing’ is truly affordable for local people.