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Our latest report explores how to tackle the complex picture of UK housing in 2021

– 4 min read

A new report has been released today, analysing the UK housing crisis, and making recommendations on how the sector can not only achieve the target of 300,000 new homes per year, but how it can help more people into home ownership.  

Entitled Better Understanding the Housing Market, the 50-page report has been commissioned by Places for People, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research. In it, the authors conclude that in understanding the crisis’s underlying causes and the market as a whole rather than in isolation, the sector will ultimately provide a long-term strategy to fix the current structural weaknesses within the housing system. 

Places for People’s Group Chief Executive, David Cowans explained: “We have created this report to contribute our research and insights on the housing crisis debate in the UK.

“We recognise that it is a conversation that must take priority at all levels of the industry – from top level government, to those who support families and individuals with their housing needs on a day to day basis. 

"Despite progress in recent years, national and local politicians, and arguably many sector leaders and commentators, do not fully recognise the need to understand the housing market as a system, which meets demand for housing of different types, in different geographies, and at different price points." 

“As an industry, we must stop trying to tackle different parts of the housing market in isolation. Instead, we must work better together to ensure that this long-term challenge is met head on with the most appropriate and effective solutions which will require commitment and investment across the board.”

David Cowans, Group Chief Executive

The report also cites the issues arising from a significant increase in housing costs since the turn of the millennium, and the UK’s failure to build enough homes to keep up with demand for decades. It says that this, coupled with escalating house prices – with averages quadrupling in the 25 years to 2020 – has heavily impacted on those who did not buy a home before the turn of the millennium.  

The report calls this demographic the “locked out generation”, a section of society who are either forced to purchase their first home much later in life, or rent for the very long-term.  It makes recommendations to overcome this issue, advocating the creation of affordable homes, as well as improving the availability of saving methods for first-time buyers – such as Lifetime ISAs. 

Other recommendations include changes to the planning system, supporting and promoting new methods of construction – including the establishment of an interlocutor to enable the wider use of MMC – and making better use of land value. It also advocates better collaboration between the government and developers and comes as Places for People is announced as a strategic partner to Homes England to deliver more affordable homes. 

In implementing the findings, Places for People believes that the challenges presented by the current market can be addressed, as David continued: “We absolutely can tackle the crisis if we get to grips with these root issues."

"I’ve long advocated collaboration and I believe that in joining forces we’ll accelerate our understanding of the challenges."

David Cowans, Group Chief Executive

“We believe that government funders, commissioners and suppliers of housing can work better together to understand the housing market as a system that should meet demand for housing of different types, in different geographies, and at different price points.  

“Of course, this requires a detailed understanding of the inter-relationship between the type and tenure of new and existing supply, and prices in each local market, over the long term – but that’s easier said than done when you consider the economic, social, and political factors. Central government also need to offer better funding streams, which are then rolled out on the ground by local authorities; these are often disjointed, and it is down to developers and local authorities to create a patchwork of support to make developments viable.” 

The report suggests this can be achieved by central government prioritising delivery at scale, identifying new growth areas across England with strong civic leadership, aligning support using grants and loans; and the new towns’ powers; as well as special purpose vehicles that already exist in legislation.  

The findings come just months after another significant report released by Places for People and the University of Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research this year; in April, they released research into the future of retirement housing in the UK, making recommendations for viable homes for an ageing population.  

Gemma Burgess, Director of the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research at The University of Cambridge, concluded:

“It is imperative that we continue to thoroughly explore the market factors affecting millions of people across the country who are prevented from owning a suitable, affordable home. Reports like those we have released this year help provoke conversations, and encourage industry and government leaders alike to engage in productive dialogue. We hope that these findings will form the basis of real action, helping developers deliver more, much-needed homes across the country.”   

Gemma Burgess, Director of Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research at The University of Cambridge

Visit our publications page here to download the full report.

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