How the New PM Should tackle the UK's Housing Crisis

Theresa May acknowledged the UK's housing crisis in her first speech as PM. Since then a number of commentators have made suggestions on how she should tackle it, including the Royal Institute for British Architects (RIBA).

The RIBA has published a 20-point plan to tackle the housing crisis and suggest that failure from the Government to step in with a serious solution could damage the UK’s economy.

“With a new government and the leave result of the EU referendum, it’s more vital than ever to ensure design quality isn’t comprised as we ramp up the construction industry to keep Britain’s economy growing and build much needed new homes,” the RIBA said in an introduction to its plan.

The RIBA split its 20 points into nine sections and while some of them do tackle architecture and design they also detail infrastructure, finance and sustainability.

The body calls for a more “joined-up” approach to the UK’s housing to ensure that homes are designed well. It also states that the right type of properties and tenure are made available in each locality – to be decided upon by local councillors and not just in accordance with national targets. RIBA adds that more should be done to increase the possibility of secondary investment in the housing market to make use of low interest rates and investor appetite for infrastructure investment opportunities.

“The actions we’ve set out are achievable and realistic steps the government can take now to tackle the housing crisis,” said RIBA president Jane Duncan.

The RIBA Housing Group’s Alex Ely, adds: “Demand for new homes continues to outstrip supply and successive governments have failed to keep up. In particular, there is a huge shortage of genuinely affordable new homes to buy or rent in many parts of the country.”

The RIBA is the latest housing related organisation to call for aligned and sustainable improvements to the UK’s housing and building policies. And, when you look at the UK’s home building figures, it’s easy to see how the current housing crisis has occurred – despite numerous reports and studies into home building in the UK underlining the need for more homes to be constructed.

UK home building statistics show the number of homes being built in the UK continues to fall short of the 250,00 homes a ten-year-old report – The Barker Review, conducted by then Bank of England member Kate Barker - says need to be built to home the growing population.

In the financial year ending in March 2007, 219,080 homes were completed across the UK, but the credit crunch came soon after and totals began to fall with just 135,910 homes built in the financial year ending March 2011. Construction numbers have improved a little since then and the most recent official data for the UK show there were 152,380 new homes completed in the year to March 2015. Preliminary data for England, meanwhile, suggest there were 139,690 homes built in the year to March 2016 – the highest level since 2009.

But, the recent rebound in home construction numbers could be under threat again as data from Markit shows the constructions sector slowing sharply in recent months amid the uncertainty linked to the EU referendum. Of course, activity could well increase again, but it needs to almost double to provide the number of homes needed to house UK residents and also make buying a home more affordable.

The Government has so far been unable, or unwilling, to encourage a comprehensive house building strategy. That means that advice and calculations from willing property-related groups could well hold the key to creating enough of the right homes in the right places across the UK.