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10 June 2022updated 14 Jun 2022 10:58am

How the UK has failed to build enough houses for decades

It is estimated that the amount of social housing completed each year needs to more than double.

By Saywah Mahmood

Boris Johnson unveiled plans for a new Right to Buy scheme in a speech on 9 June. The scheme would allow benefits payments to be put towards mortgage repayments in England. He also pledged to extend the Right to Buy scheme to allow tenants of social housing to buy their homes.

The Prime Minister failed, however, to address decades of the number of new homes being built dwindling. Since the 2000-01 financial year there has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of homes built each year, and for social housing it has almost doubled, yet the UK is still building only a little more than half the number of houses it needs to.


The latest government figures show that just under 211,000 houses were built in the UK in the 2019 to 2020 financial year. Only 41,780 of these homes were social housing. Researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, commissioned by the National Housing Federation and the housing charity Crisis, estimate that 380,000 homes need to be built in Britain each year, of which 100,000 should be social housing. The 2019 Conservative manifesto set out a target to build 300,000 homes a year in England alone, which they have so far failed to meet.

Anthony Codling, chief executive of the property platform Twindig, told trade magazine Property Industry Eye that “Right to Buy works if and only if those homes taken out of the social housing pool are replaced”. However, new builds are not compensating for Right to Buy sales and 1.1 million households are on official waiting lists for social housing.

[See also: The resurrection of Right to Buy shows the Tories’ poverty of ideas]

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