Pandemic likely to worsen UK’s housing crisis

New research suggests that more than 300,000 planned new homes may remain on the drawing board over the next five years as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The Shelter study, carried out by the property agency Savills, found that stalled construction and the recession will slash the number of new homes being built, with 85,000 predicted to be lost this financial year. The charity warns that construction of the cheapest social housing could fall to a ‘catastrophic’ low of 4,300 units annually – the smallest number since the Second World War.

Savills suggests an initial dip in housebuilding will be caused by social distancing on building sites. Further decreases will then be triggered by reduced demand for market sale homes. The stalling of housebuilding could also result in the loss of 116,000 construction jobs could by 2020-21.

Shelter is proposing the government compresses its already announced five-year, £12.2 billion affordable homes programme into two years to combat the slump.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “As the government prepares a major push on infrastructure and investment, it has a perilously short window to avert a lengthy housebuilding crash that will wipe out tens of thousands of new homes and jobs. By bringing forward planned spending and building social housing the government has the chance to avert disaster.”

David Renard, Local Government Association housing spokesman, said: “Housing must be a central part of the national recovery from coronavirus. Now is the time for a genuine renaissance in council house-building that reduces homelessness, gets rough sleepers off the streets for good, supports people’s well-being and is climate-friendly.

“Giving councils the powers and tools to deliver a programme of 100,000 social homes a year would not only meet a third of the government’s annual house-building target, but it would generate a range of social and economic benefits, including reducing the housing benefit bill and alleviating pressures on health and social care that result from poor housing conditions.”