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22 June 2022

Britons want more houses built – even nearby

An exclusive poll shows that more people are recognising a housing crisis, and support action to address it.

By Samir Jeraj and Michael Goodier

More and more of the British public are noticing the country’s broken housing market. Now, 70 per cent of voters say the UK is experiencing a housing crisis, up from 64 per cent last year.

The government has recently announced a slew of housing proposals, including extending right to buy to housing association tenants and a plan to ban no-fault evictions in England. In exclusive polling for the New Statesman conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies*, voters delivered their verdict on the state of housing in Britain.

More than half of respondents, 58 per cent, said that more housing should be built compared with just 13 per cent who said it shouldn't. When asked if more housing should be built in London, support fell to 38 per cent, with 21 percent opposing.

According to the most recent official statistics published, housebuilding in England fell in the last quarter of 2021, with the number of homes where work had started down 3 per cent compared with the last quarter of 2020, and the number of homes completed down 11 per cent.

Housebuilding had steadily increased between 2013 and start of the pandemic, but was still lagging behind the target to build 243,000 homes each year. The National Housing Federation and the housing charity Crisis estimate that 340,000 homes are needed each year to tackle the housing shortage, including 140,000 new social homes. However, government data shows there were only 52,000 affordable homes built and 57,000 started in England in 2020-21 – respectively a 12 per cent and 16 per cent decrease compared with the previous year.

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Housing developments are often opposed by local residents, fearful of the impact of more homes on their house prices, local infrastructure, communities and landscape. However, when asked if they would support more houses being built in their local area, 50 per cent of respondents said that they would, with just 24 per cent opposing.

The MPs on the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee heard evidence on 20 June on the proposed centralisation of planning as part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. Supporters of such reforms claim they will help to bring about housebuilding on the scale needed to tackle the crisis, whereas opponents say they will erode local democracy.

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Conservative politicians will also be watching the Tiverton and Honiton by-election tomorrow (23 June) closely to see whether planning issues play a role in the vote, as they did when the Lib Dems defeated the Tories in Chesham and Amersham last year.

*A weighted sample of 2,000 eligible voters in Great Britain were surveyed on 15 June 2022.

[See also: Wakefield by-election: Is Boris Johnson turning Red Wall voters back to Labour?]

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