Is the UK managing to build enough new homes to meet demand?

Is the UK managing to build enough new homes to meet demand? [Photo: gargantiopa via iStock]

Although the property market nationwide has been thriving for some time in the UK, one of the biggest pain points that the sector has always struggled with addressing has been the shortage of stock. The supply and demand issue, both in rental and ownership, has been commonly cited as one that needs to be rectified in the future through higher levels of construction, but is the UK doing enough to increase building and help improve the issue? 

According to the latest official findings from the Department of Local Government and Communities, there has been a real climb in building activity in recent years, and particularly in the last 12 months. But the bad news is that the country is still falling short of where it needs to be in terms of making sure there are enough homes to meet demand. 

In the year to the end of June, the data shows that there were some 144,280 housing starts across the UK. However, while this represents an impressive six per cent rise when compared to the 12 months that came before it, it is still markedly short of where it needs to be. To meet demand, it's estimated that the UK should be constructing at least 220,000 new homes every year. 

Speaking on the matter and the shortage in housing stock it creates, communities secretary Sajid Javid said: "We’ve got the country building again with more new homes started and built than this time last year.

"This is real progress but there is much more to do. That’s why we are going further and increasing our investment in house building to ensure many more people can benefit."

He said that one of the main channels for improving the supply and demand problem is for the government to become a more prominent investor in the sector's future, making sure that it does enough to bring more homes to market. And Mr Javid said that the government is committed to making this happen. 

He said that the introduction of the new Housing and Planning Act will ensure that the dream of a million more homes across the UK comes closer to becoming a reality moving forward by ensuring that local authorities have more freedom and a bigger role in helping to build homes. He also went on to say that the government will commit as much as £8 billion to ensuring the UK can build 400,000 new homes per year for both rental and sale. 

But in order to meet demand for housing, is it simply the case that we need more of an outside-the-box way of thinking? Putting more money into the build to rent sector, for example, would go a long way to improving the number of homes being built, while freeing up land for construction should be a priority in ensuring that it becomes easier for companies to find places to build, helping swell supply nationwide.