UK housing crisis will not be solved without all the solutions on the table

A new Centre for Cities report argues that the UK’s housing crisis in high-demand cities will only be solved for the long-term through a multi-pronged approach to freeing up land supply – including increasing the density of existing communities, and encouraging cities to work more collaboratively with their neighbouring authorities.

Press release published on 31 October 2014

A new Centre for Cities report argues that the UK’s housing crisis in high-demand cities will only be solved for the long-term through a multi-pronged approach to freeing up land supply – including increasing the density of existing communities, and encouraging cities to work more collaboratively with their neighbouring authorities.

Critically, it also highlights the importance for land both within and outside of cities to be re-evaluated on its merits, including certain green belt sites connected to local amenities and infrastructure – an essential component of tackling the crisis which has largely been designated ‘off limits’ in public debate ahead of the 2015 Election.

“The enormous gap between housing market supply and demand in many of our most successful and productive cities – including Oxford, London, Cambridge and Bristol – is constraining local economies, and hampering their ability to drive national growth. It’s putting enormous cost of living pressures on the people who live there, as housing affordability plummets, and also businesses seeking to attract and retain quality staff,” said Andrew Carter, Acting Chief Executive, Centre for Cities.

Delivering Change: Building Homes Where we Need Them explains how cities and national Government can work together to deliver substantially more homes where they are most needed, matching construction with existing infrastructure, and building better linkages between local homes, jobs and services.

1. It recommends increasing the density of existing cities through repurposing of brownfield land, which, in the 10 least affordable cities alone, could supply up to 425,000 new homes. Given the complexities of developing many of these sites, the report calls on national Government to undertake a radical reform agenda to enable local governments to actively intervene and capitalise on these opportunities.

2. Given many Britons live and work in different local authorities, the report also calls on cities to work with their neighbouring councils to identify and deliver homesand infrastructure – supporting local job markets and communities to grow and prosper.

Crucially, however, the report shows how these approaches alone will not be sufficient to addressing the long-term housing shortfall plaguing the UK’s most high-demand cities.

3. As such, the report urges all parties to also confront the need to build on well-connected green belt sites within a 25 minute walk of train stations. Only 5.2 per cent of the 10 least affordable cities’ green belt land would need to be developed to supply 1.4 million, low-density homes close to existing amenities*. And given the supply of green belt land is so plentiful, demand could be met by only building on the least attractive sites, closest to existing jobs and infrastructure – ensuring cities retain the parks and gardens, playgrounds and sporting fields so important to their natural beauty and sense of community.

“It’s clear there is consensus across the political spectrum that something must be done – but we are yet to see any plans for action that will practically address the issue, in a reasonable timeframe, and on the scale that is needed. Garden cities, brownfield land – these will all need to form part of the response, but without all options on the table, the fact is that we will never get even close to making the progress we need to see,” said Mr Carter.

“The chronic housing shortage gripping many UK cities has serious and significant long-term implications for the national economy. It’s time for real political leadership at all levels of government, so we can finally move forward towards rectifying this, once and for all.”

This report was sponsored by housing association L&Q and Barratt Developments.

David Montague, Chief Executive of L&Q said:
“As a country we need to solve the housing crisis in a generation, create high quality new homes in places where people want to live, and cherish the legacy we will hand on to our children. Meeting this challenge is not easy, and will take some hard thinking from us all. Policy-makers and the general public need to join together in constructive dialogue to help decide how and where the rising demand for new homes can best be met. We welcome opportunities to stimulate the debate the nation needs to find the right solutions.”

Mark Clare, Chief Executive of Barratt Developments Plc said:
“The house building industry is substantially increasing production but from a low base. If as a nation we are to overcome the long-term historic undersupply of homes, we need to make the case for more and better homes where people want to live; we will need strong political leadership at a national and a local level to do so.”


Press Enquiries:
Sophie Gaston, Press & External Affairs, Centre for Cities
Ph. 0207 803 4316 | m. 07472745678 |

Notes to Editors

The UK’s Housing Crisis
There is general consensus that the United Kingdom will need to build around 200,000 new homes a year to meet current demand levels – that’s two million new homes over the next decade. This report seeks to advance the public debate regarding the housing crisis by focusing on providing practical and bold solutions that will address housing need in the nation’s least affordable cities – many of which are also the most economically successful.

* Building on 5.2 per cent of the total green belt land for these 10 cities, delivers 1.4 million new homes inside of their Primary Urban Areas (see below). This land represents 2.2 per cent of the overall green belt land in England.

The Centre for Cities uses the Department for Communities and Local Government’s Primary Urban Area (PUA) definition of a city for the English urban areas included in this report. Primary Urban Areas are an aggregate of local authorities that make up the ‘built-up’ area of a city, defined as having a population of 125,000 or more. More information on PUA definitions is provided at

Centre for Cities
Centre for Cities is an independent, non-partisan research and policy institute. Committed to helping Britain’s cities improve their economic performance, the Centre produces practical research and policy advice for city leaders, Whitehall and employers.

Centre for Cities is grateful for the support of the L&Q and Barratt Developments in sponsoring this independent report. Except where otherwise indicated, all views expressed are those of the Centre for Cities, and do not necessarily reflect those of the L&Q and Barratt Developments.

Housing association L&Q is the largest residential landlord in London and the South East, and one of the area’s leading residential developers of high quality new homes.

Barratt Developments
Barratt Developments has been building homes for more than 50 years, and has grown to become one of the nation’s largest house-builders.

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