Ways the Economically Disadvantaged in the UK Are Affected by the Housing Shortage

The shortage of homes in England and Wales means that everyone faces higher prices and rental rates. But the pain doesn’t end there – as lower-income people know well.

One not need to have a PhD in economics from Oxford to know that the housing shortage in the UK affects all sectors of society: the very rich compete for homes in the priciest parts of London, the middle class struggles to buy a home when credit is tight (even average homes carry expensive price tags), and the poor must either find social housing or rent from private owners at low-supply, high-demand rates.

Increased housing supplies happen when the Government or private investors (e.g., land investment fund managers) determine how and where to build. But there are other effects of the housing crisis in England that tend to affect the economically disadvantaged to a greater degree. They include the following:

• The “Haves” and “Have nots” gap is widening, with homeownership a deciding factor – The portion of UK households that owned their own home rose dramatically from the 1980s on through the early 2000s, but began stagnating in 2004 and then began dropping in 2008, according to a report (“Home-ownership and the distribution of personal wealth,” by Lindsey Appleyard and Karen Rowlingson) published in 2010 by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). The cost of all home ownership has risen relative to incomes, particularly in the working/middle classes.

• Prohibitive proportion of household income goes to housing – A 2013 study, “Office for National Statistics Living Cost and Food Survey,” found that the proportion of household income going to housing, utilities and communication has gone up five percentage points in the last decade to about 43 per cent.

• Price volatility makes middle class people poor – JRF’s “Housing Market Taskforce” decries the cycles of boom and bust in housing values – four since the 1970s – that create financial havoc for homeowners in the UK. The report takes into account the private rented sector, low-cost home ownership and risk, increasing supply in the social rented sector and international systems of land supply and planning.

Shelter calls for getting homes built with an “all hands on deck” approach: in the private and public sectors, getting more homes built will be a combined effort on the part of private developers, local authorities, the central Government, institutional investors and local communities and their planning authorities.

From the private investment side, real asset portfolio investing very often involves individuals working with land acquisition specialists who understand what is required when working with local planning authorities. Anyone with a minimum of £10,000 can join development funds, often seeing returns in 18-60 months. But no one should consider working in speculative real estate development without first speaking with an independent financial advisor about options and relative risks of land development.

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