UK housing ‘falling behind’ other nations on affordability, condition and age, report finds

UK housing ‘falling behind’ other nations on affordability, condition and age, report finds
Nick Cheek
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Nick Cheek

Housing in England is less affordable, in worse condition and older than the majority of other developed nations, a report has found.

Analysis from the Home Builders Federation (HBF), using data from the OECD, European Union and the UK government, between 2004 and 2021 the rate of homeownership in the UK fell from 71% to 65%.

In countries such as France and the Netherlands homeownership levels increased by 10 percentage points and 15 percentage points over the same period.

The report added that the government had been under-delivering on its 300,000 new homes per year target, with only 233,000 new homes completed in 2021-2022. This has continued into 2023, with delivery in the first half of the year down 10%.

HBF added that housebuilding levels would have to reach 320,000 per year to provide homes for its population in line with the benchmark for developed nations worldwide.


The report continued that the average price of a property in England and Wales was more than eight times the average salary, which it said made some areas “staggeringly unaffordable places to live”.

HBF said that one in five people in Britain spent over 40 per cent of their post-tax income on housing, equal to 13.3 million people. This is higher than anywhere else in Europe.

In England and Wales the house price to income ratio between 2004 and 2021 has jumped 37%, which is above Denmark at 12% over the same period as a comparison.

UK housing oldest and in poorest condition

The UK also has older housing stock, with only 7% of British homes built after 2001, which compares to 18.5% in Spain and 16% in Portugal.

Compared to smaller countries like Hungary, which is 17 times smaller than the UK, the UK fares badly. Half of Hungarian houses were built after 1971, compared to a third of UK housing stock.

In 2020, the UK had the highest proportion of inadequate housing in Europe with 15 per cent not meeting the Decent Homes Standard.

In Lithuania, only 11% of homes are substandard and in Poland this figure only reaches 6%.

‘Urgent need to act now’

Stewart Basely, executive chairman of the HBF said it was “widely acknowledged” that Britain’s housing is in crisis, but the report showed how much the country is “falling behind” its international peers.

He added: “Decades of housing undersupply has produced startling consequences for people up and down the country looking for a decent home.”

Basely said that home builders want “to be able to deliver new, high quality, energy efficient homes which will help solve our country’s housing crisis, and they expanded investment over the past decade”.

“Sadly, developers are still too often hampered by a restrictive planning system, an anti-development mindset and short-term politics trumping the needs of communities,” he noted.

Basely concluded: “The country is in dire need of more high quality and energy efficient new homes. With an election looming and manifestos being considered, today’s research should act as a wake-up call, demonstrating the urgent need to act now to prevent us falling even further behind.”