UK housing: 1.2 million homes need to be built to close the housing gap

The UK housing market is in crisis, according to a recent report, and the supply-demand gap will take at least 15 years to close

UK housing market
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The UK housing market is facing grave challenges, according to a recent, in-depth report by the BBC. The Housing Brief points to a figure of a 1.2-million gap of new homes needed to accommodate everyone who currently needs a home. The inability to get on, or progress up the housing ladder is hardly just due to people's inability to find the best mortgage rate or save up for a deposit. 

A 2019 study by Heriot-Watt University estimates that closing this housing gap would take about 15 years at current building rates – and that's provided that nothing changes, for example that the population doesn't suddenly expand, or that private building firms don't build less housing than they do now. 

The number of new dwellings added to the UK housing market stood at 275,000 last year, but, as the report explains, this by itself might not be enough to resolve the UK housing crisis by 2030. The current household growth forecast suggests that, even if we are to close the current housing gap in 15 years' time, by 2035, we will once again have a housing shortage of four million homes. Besides, there is no guarantee that building new homes per se will make them suitable for people's needs, especially where it comes to affordability. 

The lack of new social housing being built is hitting families at risk of homelessness particularly hard: councils are struggling to find suitable accommodation for the increasing number of people struggling to rent privately, with the number of homeless families in the UK standing at 140,000. Only 5,000 of them are rough sleepers, with the rest sleeping in shelters, on friends' sofas, and in temporary accommodation.  

The recommendation of the report is clear: the government can increase housing supply by funding local councils to build more social housing. It also suggests that subsidising private developers could incentivise them to build more affordable housing – although similar schemes in the past haven't yielded the expected results. 

A number of other recommendations from think tanks and research bodies are collected in the report, many of them pointing to the need for regulating private development, the need for further schemes to help young people onto the property ladder, and increasing housing benefit for those struggling to rent privately.