Britain Needs More Houses
House building in the UK seems to be happening all around us as it always has done. It seems that new building sites are appearing with the same regularity as they always have, but this is obviously not the case, given the price and scarcity of homes today.
In fact Britain is in a doldrums of house construction that has been around since the financial turbulence of the late nineteen seventies.
The state of the Nation’s housing became apparent to the government in the course of the First World War, when the army exposed the physical state of much of its working class conscripted men.
The type of houses they lived in were breeding grounds for tuberculosis, polio and lack of sunlight and vitamins leading to rickets in early life.
After the war, the Government, in a new era of social responsibility to house the Nation and returning soldiers, embarked on a “Homes fit for Heroes” campaign and in 1919 passed the Housing Act which led to councils as well as the private sector, becoming involved in house building.
Councils were to be subsidised by the Government to initiate house building programmes to provide new good quality homes, with the costs divided between the tenants, the local rate payers and the Government backed council.
House building by councils and by the private sector together, took off, in the post war years, and as the recession of the early thirties began to bite, the government pushed the house building industry to supply more to aid the slum clearance programmes of the inter war years.
Building all but stopped for the duration of the Second World War, and given the materials shortages which immediately followed it, did not really pick up until the early ‘40s, and the ensuing boom saw house numbers of around 300 to 400 thousand being built annually.
These sort of figures continued until the economic crash of the seventies. The end of council building, after the “Right to Buy” policy of the early eighties, heralded a lack of new house building that has been with us ever since.
At the turn of the millennium, a report noted that at least 250,000 homes had to be built each year to avoid soaring house prices and a shortage of affordable housing.
The industry has struggled to annually achieve half of that number, and the consequence of record house prices and availability is what we see now.
The country needs to see more new house building, and the sooner the better.