Abundance of land, shortage of housing

Government’s timid reform will not solve chronic housing affordability problems

Not enough is being done to reduce the extraordinarily high cost of housing in Britain. This is the finding of a new report released today by the Institute of Economic Affairs Abundance of land, shortage of housing.

In the research Kristian Niemietz looks at how housing costs in the UK have exploded in recent decades. Real-terms house prices in 2011 were more than two-and-a-half-times higher than in 1975, with rent levels following suit. Nothing about this was inevitable. Many other countries have experienced rising housing costs as well, but in most other cases, the increase has been much lower and/or largely transitory. In the USA, Germany and Switzerland, real-terms house prices are still close to their 1975 levels.

Other main findings include:

·         Housing affordability measures show housing to be unaffordable in every single one of the 33 regions in the UK.

·         There is still plenty of room for development in the UK: 

·       Only 1/10th of England’s surface land is developed and even in developed areas, the single biggest item is gardens.

·        Literally ‘concreted-over’ land makes up only 1/20th of England’s surface area.

·         Housing benefit is a flawed approach to dealing with the problem of low-cost housing – it favours those living in expensive areas rather than those on low incomes.

·         The main difference between the UK and its north-western European neighbours is not in demographics, but in completion rates of new dwellings.

·         Empirical evidence from around the world shows that planning restrictions are the key determinant of housing costs.



·         Only a thorough libe