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Housing policy ‘must surely be centre-stage’ in election manifestos

Research and Campaigns Team

Housing policy issues are ‘deeply intertwined with various aspects of community well-being and development’.

So says the independent Resolution Foundation in its latest housing outlook*. Their research shows the UK facing ‘a distinct housing challenge when compared to other developed economies’.

As a country we allocate more spending** to housing than every OECD country but one. Yet UK homes have less floor space per person and less convenient locations. Moreover, our housing stock is the oldest in Europe with relatively poor insulation performance.

On social and economic grounds Resolution calls for housing policy to take centre-stage in every party election manifesto. We agree.

EPC Rating Graphic
Property age and energy efficiency standards are determinants of insulation effectiveness, energy bills and health impacts. Graphic: DLUHC

UK people also consume less housing than other developed economies. Estimates of the amount of housing consumed are primarily a function of floorspace, although some other adjustments for quality are made. Typically, as countries become wealthier, demand for housing increases. But despite the UK’s economic prosperity, housing consumption remains comparatively subdued.

The evidence indicates that the whole UK faces a significant housing problem. Urgent reforms are imperative. At CAEE we naturally focus on local conditions.

Epsom & Ewell
EE EPS Households
Chart shows EPC Band C or above. In fact some 59% of Epsom & Ewell households are rated Band D (average for England and Wales) or below.

To understand how the problem plays out locally we can examine some Census housing statistics. In 2021 there were around 31,300 households in Epsom and Ewell. In distribution terms:

  • A higher proportion of residents in Epsom and Epsom and Ewell owned their homes, compared to the England average. 36.6% owned their homes outright, 38.8% with a mortgage, loan, or shared ownership, in contrast to 32.5% and 29.8% respectively.
  • 25% rent their homes, 16.1% in the private sector, 8.8% in social accommodation.
  • The borough maintained a steady supply of new homes from 2011 to 2021 with a total of 2,502 units, 654 affordable. This has led to a 7% increase in total stock and a 25% rise in affordable homes. (Census 2021)

In Epsom & Ewell owners outnumber renters 3 to 1, but CAEE advisers help far more renters with housing debts, landlord relations and much more linked to the wider cost-of-living crisis. .

The cost of all housing is high in a market heavily influenced by the capital: house prices are among the highest anywhere; owners with mortgages face steep repayment rises; private rents are accounting for ever greater shares of household disposable income; the council’s budget is stretched by its responsibility to find temporary accommodation for higher numbers of those who find themselves homeless.

Election case

The need for action to relieve the crisis here and everywhere is now inescapable; our housing campaign over the past year reveals many of its component parts. In the run-up to the expected general election Citizens Advice will continue making the case for reform in the strongest terms.

Behind so many of the problems our clients face lies a national housing stock that is both inadequate and unaffordable. It may also be the underlying cause of the country’s worst social and economic problems.

Earlier this year Citizens Advice listed 3 basic actions: expand affordable housing of all kinds and tenures; develop more social housing; reform the landlord role towards providing decent homes and away from speculative business that can too often produce poor quality homes and insecure families.

We hope the next government will agree and prioritise new policies and better lives for millions of citizens.

* Housing Outlook Q1 2024, Resolution Foundation, 29/03/24
** Adjusted for quality ‘housing expenses in the UK are more costly relative to general prices than in any other OECD country’.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is an intergovernmental organisation with 38 member countries, founded in 1961 to stimulate economic development and world trade.

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