Headlines have heralded that the lowest number of houses have been built in the UK since World War II with a mere 134,000 new homes built in 2010. This record low is particularly sobering considering that 230,000 new households are formed every year. It is predicted that the younger generation will be the hardest hit of all with many young people unable to afford to either buy or rent. So where do we go from here? With the Coalition government offering up solutions that are certainly not going to rectify the solution entirely, many other experts from various organisations have offered up their own housing solutions.
Here are 8 of the most radical suggestions as reported by the BBC.
Radical Solution 1: Encourage the elderly out of big houses
By “encouraging”, The Intergenerational Foundation, a pressure group advocating this solution, means that elderly people could be offered tax breaks to move into smaller homes, thereby freeing up family houses. The Intergenerational Foundation says more than a third of the housing stock is under-occupied, which means they have at least two spare bedrooms.
More than half of the over 65s fall into this category and as a result are "hoarding housing", the charity argues. However single professionals who maintain large homes for themselves should lose the 25% council tax discount available to single people, according to Guardian columnist George Monbiot.
Critics of this idea feel it is unfair to deprive people who have worked hard to earn their home. TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp defends the elderly who live alone, pointing out that many people want to hang on to their homes for their children's sake.
"It's not house hoarding. This is their home," she says. "A lot of that generation have done far more in life and taken far less than we have."
Radical Solution 2: Freestyle planning
Our government wants to make house planning easier to encourage house building. However, critics like the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England fear that loosening standards will mean that we will lose green belt areas.
Proponents of this strategy feel that current regulations make building property too expensive and time consuming. One suggestion is to have planners working as private consultants alongside developers to deliver realistic proposals with the local community deciding if a proposal was up to scratch.
But professional planners fear that people will be uncomfortable with not being able to predict what may in the future be built next door to their property. Richard Blythe, head of policy at the Royal Town Planning Institute, points out "The planning system provides this by balancing economic, social and environmental considerations and by enabling democratic input into what is proposed."
Radical Solution 3: Contain population growth
The population of the UK is growing at a phenomenal rate and predictions for future growth are staggering.
The number of households in England will increase from 21.7m in 2008 to 27.5m by 2033, an increase of 5.8m or 27%.
There are people that argue that immigration must be curbed to keep the UK population under control. In fact government figures reveal that more than a third of new households in England in the next 25 years will be the result of immigration.
Another option is voluntary family limits, whereby couples who choose to have no children or limit themselves to one child might be given a tax break of some sort but this sort of population control is so unpopular that even the BBC article failed to mention it.
Radical Solution 4: Force landlords to sell or let empty properties
The BBC reports that “There are nearly one million empty homes in the UK, and 350,000 of them have been empty for more than six months.”
Turning them into liveable homes could make a massive difference, says David Ireland, chief executive of the Empty Homes Agency. "If you could suddenly build 350,000 homes you wouldn't sniff at that. So those empty properties are worth having."
A significant number of empty homes are publicly owned so people could be given the right to buy or rent these neglected properties. In exchange for reduced rents the new occupants would be expected to do up the property with their renovation plans overseen by an independent tribunal.
Whilst there is zero VAT on building new homes, converting or renovating properties attracts only a reduced rate. Many landlords leave their properties sitting vacant because they don’t have the funds to renovate them. So another solution might be to offer a loan to anyone wanting to refurbish an empty property.
Radical Solution 5: Ban second homes
In some parts of Britain holiday homes account for a substantial proportion of the housing stock. In the most popular UK holiday destination of Cornwall 1 in 20 homes is a second home and owners receive a council tax discount.
According to some experts, local authorities should increase council tax on those with a second or third home.
But TV presenter Sarah Beeny says second homes are not responsible for the housing crisis and banning them is "quite extreme".
"It doesn't fall that far from banning people from having a second child," she says. "Maybe make a second home less appealing, but the tax benefits are not there already. Owning a second home is better in theory than in practice."
Radical Solution 6: Guarantee mortgage payments
Because many people can’t get mortgages they can’t buy homes. Because there is no one to buy homes, building aren’t building homes. This is why so few new homes have been built recently.
The Coalition’s plan to encourage mortgage lenders to lend with less deposit is one way of getting the new homes market moving. Although the specifics of this plan are still being hashed out, the logic behind this scheme is that the government, house builders and mortgage lenders will club together to fund an insurance scheme that would underwrite mortgages where the lender defaults. Currently, we have no idea how far reaching this scheme might be.
Radical Solution 7: Live with extended family
Here in the UK the majority of families live with immediate family only in one household, but in countries like Italy it is more common to see extended families in one residence.
By following this model of grandparents, children and grandchildren all living under one roof, the housing stock would be more efficiently distributed. However, many people argue that living with your family can be stressful and cause tension.
Radical Solution 8: Build more council homes
Council housing has been part of the British landscape for over a 100 years. However, Margaret Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme depleted the stocks of council houses.
To compound the problem, the building of council houses to let has also died down if not off, sending waiting lists through the roof.
The result is that there are far more people waiting for social housing than properties becoming available.
One solution is to make market prices come down and stay down. It is unlikely that the government will build council houses themselves with so many other financial issues taking centre stage.
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