Last night, Channel 4 broadcast a new Dispatches show into the shortage of homes in the country, revealing the extent of Britain’s housing crisis.
The Great Housing Scandal, presented by Harry Wallop, began with the Government’s 2011 pledge to get Britain building. The Government vowed that by 2015, 100,000 new homes would be built on huge amounts of public land, which the Government would release to developers.
Last year, the Government announced that it had hit this target. But where are the homes? Asked Wallop.
Wallop visited Susan, who lives alone with her 11-year-old son in Plymouth. Susan is forced to rent from a private landlord, as she cannot afford the average house price in the area, of £170,000.
Dispatches Reveals the Extent of Britain’s Housing Crisis
However, Susan’s landlord needs to sell the property for personal reasons, and has given her three months to leave.
With homeownership at a 30-year low, demand for rental properties is only increasing, which is causing rents to rise twice as fast as the average salary.
Susan has become one of 28,000 people in Plymouth who are on the waiting list for a council home. In the country, around 3m people are waiting for a council house.
Susan is living with the feeling that she’s failing her son and is losing her “safe haven”.
So who has profited from the Government’s targets, and who’s still living in the grips of Britain’s housing crisis?
Of the Government’s 100,000 new homes target, it did not specify how many would be affordable – this is 20% or more below the average market price for the area, which is the most urgently needed type of housing.
Wallop then went to investigate Turnchapel Wharf, an area that the Government said should have 20 new homes by now. When Wallop arrived, he found that only offices had been built on the site. However, the Government has included the 20 proposed homes in its official figures.
Since 2011, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) reports that it has sold enough land for 39,000 of the Government’s target. But Wallop and land valuation expert Pete Redman found that on some land sales, the Government didn’t achieve the best price.
In addition, just 11 out of 47 sites sold between 2011-15 were sold with planning permission. Redman explained that buying sites without planning permission not only loses taxpayer money, but also slows down housebuilding.
On 45% of the sites, planning permission was not obtained, while many did not even apply.
So what about the other end of the scale?
In Knightsbridge, west London – one of the most expensive places to live in the country – Wallop found that the super rich are living in the lap of luxury. Speaking to a local estate agent, Wallop discovered that many are building their own indulgent retreats in basements or empty properties next door, such as pools and bars.
Additionally, the programme revealed that many large, expensive sites are being sold to developers who are turning properties into luxury hotels. The number of homes proposed for these sites is also being included in official figures, despite no homes having been built there.
What’s more, the Government has cut the proportion of homes on sites that must be affordable. Wallop found that more than half of the new developments will have less than half of the recommended number of affordable homes.
As if the figures weren’t murky enough, over 7,000 of the new build homes included in the Government’s target were already planned before the pledge was announced. Yet the MoD has still included these properties in its figures.
Shockingly, Dispatches found that just 1,800 homes have been completed since 2011. On its journey, it found just six on one site, which are priced at £3.5m each.
When Theresa May was appointed as Prime Minister, she made an even more ambitious plan to build 1m homes by 2020. But following these new figures, does it seem possible?
“The Government needs to get a grip of this programme”, insisted Meg Hillier MP, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
Will the Government be able to deliver on its promise and solve Britain’s housing crisis?