Home Ownership Levels In England Have Fallen To A 30 Year Low

Planning Experts Say Government Needs To Rethink Its Approach to House Building


Kate Rawlings, Press Officer | 0114 274 4238

Legal experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell say demands on developers to provide affordable housing is contributing to the housing crisis as it was announced that home ownership levels in England have fallen to a 30 year low.

The growing gap between house prices and income has created a housing crisis that reaches beyond London to areas such as Manchester, Yorkshire and the West Midlands.

According to a new report by the Resolution Foundation, Greater Manchester has seen its biggest slump in ownership since its peak in the early 2000s.

Home ownership across England peaked in April 2003, when 71% of households owned their home, either outright or with a mortgage.

But according to the think tank, that figure had dropped to 64% by February 2016 - the lowest since 1986.

Head of Planning at Irwin Mitchell, Carl Dyer, said houses prices were high due to high demand resulting from their scarcity and added that the supply of new homes was inadequate as a result of affordable housing thresholds set by local authorities being too high.


Expert Opinion
We need a fundamental rethink of the approach to house building, and it needs to be sustained for the life time of several Parliaments. Napoleon once famously ordered the planting of trees beside the roads in France to provide shade for his soldiers as they marched along them. When told that would take years, he replied, ‘that is why we must start at once,’.

Essentially, affordable housing is a tax on house building. Local authorities require developers wanting to build new homes to provide a certain percentage of the new homes as affordable housing.

There are local authorities which have imposed a threshold of two houses, and a requirement of fifty per cent – so the moment you propose to build more than one house, the second one has to be an affordable one. Unsurprisingly, many landowners and developers in those areas look at alternative land uses, or simply don’t propose redevelopment.

Alongside that, we also have the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – a development land tax in all but name – which is levied selectively on different land uses, and usually highest on house building; so we have central government screaming for more houses, while allowing local government to tax house building.

The other polices floating around, including subsidised or state-guaranteed mortgages or deposits, don’t take matters further forward either. They simply raise the buying power of the lucky recipients – and so potentially further bid up the prices of the limited stock available - without contributing to increasing the total hosing numbers.

If we want to solve the housing crisis, we need to build more homes. It’s as simple as that. The most recent estimate is that the target should be 300,000 a year, not 200,000 a year. That needs to happen pretty much indefinitely.

If we want that to happen, we need to stop taxing house building with increasingly unsustainable affordable housing requirements, Community Infrastructure Levy, and planning obligations. Of course developments should contribute to or provide infrastructure necessary to enable them to proceed, but the reaction in too many places is to see how much they can be milked for.

In land use terms, we also need an acceptance of higher densities, and higher heights to make the best use of land. We need wider acceptance of the government’s new permitted development rights for conversions, and these should be expanded.”
Carl Dyer, Partner