Researcher blames government not rich foreign buyers for UK housing crisis

Taylor Scott International News

Decades of planning policies that constrain the supply of houses and land and turn them into something like gold or artworks is to blame for the current housing crisis in the UK rather than foreign buyers, according to a new analysis. The problem is not foreign speculators buying luxury flats as an investment in London which then lie empty but that for more than 30 years not enough homes have been built, says Paul Cheshire, Professor Emeritus of economic geography at the London School of Economics. He also believes that homes that have been built have too often been in the wrong place or of the wrong type to meet demand. For example, twice as many houses were built in Doncaster and Barnsley in the five years to 2013 than in Oxford and Cambridge. It means that in northern cities more homes have been built that in the southern part of the country where the demand and population is greater. Pace has also not kept up to demand. According to his analysis from 1969 to 1989 over 4.3 million houses were built in England but from 1994 to 2012 there were fewer than 2.7 million. In 2009, the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit, which was set up as an independent technical source of advice in the wake of the Barker Reviews of housing supply and planning, estimated that to stabilise affordability, it would be necessary to build between 237,800 and 290,500 houses a year. On a conservative estimate, that implies building 260,000 houses a year, which over 19 years would mean a total of over 4.9 million. Taking the difference between actual building between 1969 and 1989 and the advice unit’s estimate of necessary annual building, this implies that between 1994 and 2012, building fell short of what was needed by between 1.6 and 2.3 million houses. ‘This is what explains the crisis of housing affordability. We have a longstanding and endemic crisis of housing supply and it is caused primarily by policies that intentionally constrain the supply of housing land. It is not surprising to find that house prices increased by a factor of 3.36 from the start of 1998 to late 2013 in Britain as a whole and by a factor of 4.24 over the same period in London,’ said Cheshire. He explained that it is a long standing problem as discounting inflation, house prices have gone up fivefold since 1955 but the price of the land needed to put houses on has increased in real terms by 15 fold over the same period. He also explained that in the UK houses are converted from places in which to live into the most important financial asset people have and the little land you can build them on becomes not just an input into house construction but a financial asset in its own right. ‘In other words, what policy is doing is turning houses and housing land into something like… Taylor Scott International

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