UK Housing Crisis

By Tony Sutcliffe 

In 1951 the population of the UK was 50.2 million, in approximately 12.4 million households, an average of 3.2 people per household. By 2011, the population had grown to 63.2 million, a growth of about 25% in 60 years. However, the number of households in 2011 had increased to 24.8 million, with an average of 2.3 people per household, almost double the previous figure. This has been due to a number of changing demographic factors; smaller numbers of people within households, an aging population, and more people living on their own. (Source: ONS)

The figures show that from 1951 to 2011 the population growth has been comparatively steady, although between 2011 & 2016, the estimates seem to indicate a slight upward trend in both population and in the number of households. But at no time has this been matched by a growth in the amount of housing stock being built or replaced; and in some years the shortfall has been particularly severe.

Figures from the NHBC & NHF indicate that with the growth in population, combined with the change in household sizes, an average of between 220,000 & 250,000 houses were needed to be built during the period 1951 and 2016. However, the only year in which the UK came close to meeting that figure was in 1977 when 217,000 houses were built. The average number per year built throughout the 60 year period was just over 160,000; a consistent shortfall that has put increasing pressure on the housing market that is now really becoming a major problem for the country.

The current government has set out some ambitious plans for housing development, but there is very little indication that they will be able to achieve these numbers or even anywhere near the numbers. There is a shortage of suitable land for building, and a considerable amount of speculation is taking place; as potential sites are identified, there is a scramble to purchase the property, as once outline planning permission is granted, the land value increases substantially, and fortunes can be made just on the transfer of land.

However, even when suitable sites are identified, there is a significant problem with the actual development process. The major players are aggressively challenging any requirements for them to include the appropriate infrastructure to go with the houses that they build. Failure to include roads, shops, schools and other facilities means that the taxpayer then has to pay for these items to be added at a later stage; and often at an increased price.

The argument usually made is that the developer cannot include these items and still make a profit; a claim that would seem to be unsupportable, as all developers in the last 5 years have reported substantial profit increases and made generous bonus or dividend payments to their senior managers.

A key Liberal Democrat policy is that everyone should have a place that they can call home. This might be one they own or are purchasing with a mortgage, or it might be rented, through some form of the social housing structure, or even from the private sector. However, whatever the legal status, it should be fit for human habitation.

Too many people in the UK are struggling to find somewhere to live. The number of rough sleepers has increased in the last few years, and far too many families are technically homeless, living in temporary accommodation. Amongst those buying their homes, 1 in 3 are just one mortgage payment away from losing that home according to a report by the housing association Shelter last year; a total of 8 million households. A recent report has also identified that more than a million households renting from the private sector risk being evicted in the next 3 years due to increasing rents.

It’s time for a change.


Tony is a passionate local activist in Taunton and has a Masters in Computing for Commerce and Industry. 



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By Charlotte Newman

It can seem at times that the political world is full of discord, anger and hate and the turmoil of uncertainty, particularly at present with Brexit, breeds these emotions. Yet there is a way to show kindness in politics and to unlock the potential for good that could come from the political world and the people who inhabit it. This can occur by being more mindful. In mindfulness, loving kindness is the foundation of living life in the present moment and generating an inner calm amongst what can seem like a chaotic modern world. The Dalai Lama is quoted that ‘you cannot begin to make peace with the outer world until we make peace with ourselves’. With the turmoil that the world can appear to be in at present, our only hope of creating peaceful relationships and progression is through making peace with ourselves first.


PMQs in the House of Commons is often seen as an example of open aggression

PMQs in the House of Commons is often seen as an example of open aggression

When practicing loving kindness, we show kindness to ourselves and when we show ourselves compassion we can express compassion towards others and are able to acknowledge their suffering.  We practice deep listening and strive to help ease another's pain. Politics is an ideal ground for loving kindness to thrive if it is practiced, as an MPs responsibility is to listen to the people, and what I connect with in the Liberal Democrats is the belief to support everyone of any background in fighting for freedom and equality. (I am not saying at all that only the LibDems ethos supports practicing loving kindness - you can practice loving kindness in any political party!!) It could be argued a politician's principal role is to create a better society for all and to relieve the suffering of as many as possible.


A fundamental part of loving kindness, as mentioned, is deep listening, where we listen to another to understand their suffering not just to respond. So much of modern politics is listening to respond not listening to understand. In debates, do either side actually listen to the others argument or do they merely wait until it is their turn to speak? Do they listen to each other with the intention to understand or they do they listen to quash and rebuke? Politics in part has become an act, particularly in the Commons, and it has made it difficult for deep listening to occur and be practiced as it has become a game of which party can come out on top, not always what is best for the greater good. Bipartisanship is difficult to come by and most modern democracies around the world struggle with it.


 An MP does have the opportunity however, to practice deep listening and loving kindness every day with their constituents. They are the source of compassion to those who are suffering and we have a responsibility to help those who suffer. If an MP practices deep listening they are fully aware of their constituents suffering and even if they cannot practically help every person, by being present and practicing listening deeply they will still have helped. The anger that has built up in the modern world, in part, comes from people not feeling they are listened to. They are voiceless and their suffering goes unnoticed. If an MP deeply listens, that person will have felt they have been heard, that they are understood and that we have compassion and loving kindness for them. There is not room for anger when practicing loving kindness as if we are faced with anger we listen deeply and understand where that person’s anger is coming from. Once we understand their suffering there is no room for anger, only compassion, as we understand.


If the world of politics began to adopt and practice deeper listening we would begin to create a society that can listen to each other. If politicians could practice loving kindness towards each other so that they do not meet each other with anger but with understanding, then we may see a new form of political landscape where cooperation and kindness ascend.

Charlotte Newman recently achieved her A-Levels in English, Politics and Drama, and is set to study Politics at University. 

Charlotte Newman recently achieved her A-Levels in English, Politics and Drama, and is set to study Politics at University. 

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