The state of the UK housing market in five charts
So how’s the UK housing market doing? Still in crisis, it would seem. Even the Brexit vote has not arrested property’s steady rise in value: according to Nationwide’s figures, asking prices went up 0.6pc in August.
As an increase in demand and a lacklustre level of supply drives up the value of the nation’s housing, the demographics of home ownership have changed. While older people are more likely to own a home outright than they were 25 years ago, younger people have to wait much longer than their elders did to buy their first house.
These problems are exacerbated by a chronic shortage of construction which shows little sign of being solved.
They are still rising, and fast. The average UK house price was £214,000 in June this year, says the Office for National Statistics, which is £24,000 more than it was at the pre-economic downturn peak in September 2007.
Even nervousness over Brexit didn’t dent the onward march of house prices: annual growth increased to 5.6pc in August from 5.2pc in July.
This is nothing new: over the last decade or so, the average cost of a house has increased 50pc, according to figures from the ONS.
Real wage comparison
The rise in house prices is important, but what really matters is its comparison with wages. According to a report by the Trades Union Congress, real wages in the UK have fallen 10.4pc in the years following the financial crisis, a decline matched in the advanced Western economies only by Greece.
This has exacerbated the divergence between real wages and house prices, which between 1989 and 1995 was shrinking. Since then, the trend has reversed. By early 2015, the average price of a house was five times the average annual wage. This is quite some leap from 1997, where a house cost little more than twice the average salary.
As Full Fact has observed, the gulf is widening with particular alacrity in London, where the ratio has increased from 3.7 to nine times average incomes.
In 1991, more 25-to-34-year-olds owned a house than not. Less than 25 years later, the rate of home ownership in the age group had fallen to 35.8pc — as houses become more expensive, would-be buyers have to wait longer to save up the money.
Conversely, home ownership has been rising steadily among those aged 65 or more. In 1981, half of the 65-74 age group were home owners. By 2013/14, that figure was 78.6pc.
A cross-party Lords committee said in July that the UK should be building 300,000 new houses a year, which is 50pc more than the Government’s target of 200,000. The supply of housing, however, falls further behind demand every year, with little sign of the disparity being arrested.
Burdensome planning regulations have been cited along with Nimbyism; Theresa May is interested in giving homeowners cash to quieten their objections to local building work.
To arrest the crisis, her Government must find a way of addressing the gulf left by the decline of local authorities’ house building. In 1969-70, 135,700 homes were built by local authorities; such was the decline in state involvement in construction that councils only built 60 homes in 2001-02, with little increase since.
It will take a lot of money to bump house building up to the official target, let alone the rate recommended by the Lords. The number of houses built in 2014-15 was about 150,000, a small rise on the year before but a far cry from the 380,00-odd houses constructed in 1979-80.
The rise of renters
Talk of ‘Generation Rent’ is accurate insofar as younger people are much more likely to rent than they were even a few years ago: ONS figures say that more than a fifth of people aged between 36 and 40 lived in private rented accommodation in 2014, compared with 12.6pc in 2008, according to the ONS.
It doesn’t tell the full story, though: driven largely by older age groups, the overall share of people who own their homes outright has increased from 23.7pc in 1986 to 31.2pc in 2014. This can in part be explained by comparative fall in rates of council home tenancy. While in 1986, 27pc of people in the UK lived in a council home, that figure had tumbled to 9pc by 2014.
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