House Building Comes Up Short

House Building Comes Up Short

The current price of houses in the UK is at a dizzying high. The market as read by the general population would seem to be crying out for more houses to be built. Whether the government reads the situation in the same way, seems unlikely.

Perhaps high priced housing suits government aims, certainly the figures trumpeted by government for the number of new builds to be completed each year have not been delivered by builders, so perhaps builders are to blame, or perhaps there is no one body to blame, other than market forces.

The country certainly can build houses when it suits, after the First World War, even after the first flush of housing was built as “homes fit for heroes”, house building carried on apace, peaking at some 350,000 homes per year.

The creation of more than half of the new homes was the new government plan for social housing in which government subsidies were given to local councils to build new houses. The costs were to be spread between the tenants, the council, and central government. The council house was born, and some half a million of them were built by 1933.

Subsidies to private builders were offered around the same time, and that sector, over a similar period produced almost as many houses as the councils.

After the Second World War, house building was a government priority. Returning troops, bomb damaged dwellings, and slum clearance all needed swathes of new homes being built, and many certainly were.

For decades post-war, the annual figure for house building was around 300,000, with councils building up to half of them, until the late seventies, and then in 1980, the Thatcher government introduced the Housing Act, giving council house tenants the right to buy.

This greatly increased private ownership, but all but stopped the building of social housing, which has never been taken up since. The private sector did not fill the numbers, and a rising population has helped fuel the demand and consequent price rises in housing.

The Barker review in 2004 recommended that the country needed at least 240,000 new houses built every year until 2020. The figures seem reluctant to rise over around 110,000 to 140,000. This is in the face of modern building techniques which can complete house builds in record times.

There are also new ideas and experiments being trialled at various sites around the world using 3D copying. A firm in China has recently claimed to have produced 10 houses in 24 hours using the method. Perhaps the housing shortage can be alleviated by super hi-tech?