The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), with the usual fanfare, has announced that “Housebuilding effort reaps real results”. We go from one coalition success to another, or so they would like us to think. We are told that the net supply of additional homes (in England) has “increased by 10%” from 2012-13 to 2013-14. Net supply adds the number of new homes built together with the gains or losses through conversion (e.g. a house into flats), changes of use (a shop into a house or flats) and subtracts homes demolished. The increase over the last year is announced to be “the highest percentage increase in 12 years” (see Table 1 below). From this you are expected to believe that the government’s housing strategy is a great success. The opposite is the case. They are turning reality on its head. In place of honest presentation of statistics the coalition’s shameless misrepresentation of the stats serves the purpose of obscuring the failure of their policy. Read the DCLG’s Housing Statistical Release of November 13th (for England) and their flimsy construction comes crashing down. (Download a PDF here netsupply or read on below)
The increase in the net supply of dwellings of 11,890 in 2013-14, at 9.5%, is the largest percentage increase in 12 years. But in order to judge what it represents you have to look at it in context. The DCLG is quite happy to compare a percentage increase over 12 years to paint a pretty picture. But it’s like looking at a still frame in a film. You know very little unless you know what has come before. The 9.5% doesn’t look so impressive if you know that in the previous year there was a drop of 7.5%. In fact the number of net additional homes in 2013-14, this apparent success, is still less than the coalition was able to achieve in its first year in office. And that figure marked a decline from the last year of the previous government.
Kris Hopkins, coalition Housing Minister number 3, famously said that the previous government had “bequeathed a housing market” which was “a smoking ruin”. Yet the fact is that the coalition has been unable to match the figure produced by the “smoking ruin” in the worst year of the housing crash – 144,870. This failure of the housing policy of the coalition government can be measured against the highpoint of 223,530 net additional homes prior to the crash. When the global crisis erupted there was a 35% drop in the number of net additional homes in just two years.
It is true that the coalition has achieved its highest level of new build completions at 130,340. Yet as you can see from the table 2 below this compares very unfavourably with 2007/08 and 2008/9.
Whatever happens in the real world there is no pause in the efforts of the coalition to present failure as success. Hence we are told of the “success” of the “affordable homes programme”. Mr Brandon Lewis, Housing Minister No 4 (it seems to be one of those short straw Ministries) says that “the programme has already been a key part of government efforts that have got Britain building, and will ensure this success continues for years to come”. You can see the degree of this “success” in Table 3 below where only 42,000 “affordable homes” have been provided in each of the last two years. You might also look at the number of homes with ‘social rent’ (Council Housing and Housing Association homes). For 2013-14 only 10,840 were produced. Even if you add the number of the so-called “affordable rent” homes (up to 80% of market rents) it is still not very impressive.
Since the coalition came to office the number of Council homes in England has declined by 104,000. That doesn’t appear to bother them since they are trying to drive up Council house sales.
The government’s own estimate of the number of new homes required each year (in England) is in the region of 240,000. So in their ‘best’ year they are 110,000 short of that. If this “success continues for years to come” then we can guarantee only one thing: the housing crisis will get worse each and every year should they manage to cling onto office.
Table 1: Annual net additional dwellings 2000-01 to 2013-13, England
|Financial Year||Net supply (dwellings)||Percentage change from previous year|
Table 2 Components of net housing supply, 2007-08 to 2013-14, England
New build completions
Plus Net conversions
Plus Net change of use
Plus net other gains
Plus adjustments to Census 2011
|Net additional dwellings||223,530||182,770||144,870||137,390||134,900||124,720||136,610|
Table 3 trends in the gross supply of affordable housing, England 2004-05 to 2013-14
|Intermediate affordable of which
Affordable home ownership
Totals may not sum due to rounding of figures to the nearest 10.