80 per cent of Britons want action on housing shortage – but
fears over new homes still cause confusion
Eighty per cent of Britain‟s population believes that urgent action is needed to address the
national housing shortage, according to a new YouGov poll conducted by the New Homes
Marketing Board (NHMB).
Over a third of respondents said the housing shortage was a „very important‟ national issue, and
a further 45 per cent felt it „fairly important.‟ Less than 10 per cent thought it unimportant.
Despite this recognition, significant numbers of adults in all age groups still believe certain
persistent myths surrounding the housing shortage which are not borne out by the facts – such as
the idea that the Green Belt is decreasing and disappearing under concrete, and that
housebuilders are holding on to land which could be built on („landbanking‟).
The reality is that the Green Belt has actually increased by around 65,000 acres in the last
decade, while housebuilders do not have land holdings beyond their immediate business needs,
as confirmed by the Government‟s own Barker Report into Housing Supply in 2004 and the Home
Builders Federation‟s recent submission to the Calcutt Review of housing delivery.
The poll also highlights unfounded fears about land usage. When asked to estimate what
percentage of land would be taken up in south east England if 120,000 new homes were built
every year for the next ten years – that‟s four times the current rate - only a tiny proportion of
respondents came up with the correct answer, which is less than 1 per cent of the land area.
Most respondents thought that number of new homes would take up anything between three per
cent and 20 per cent of the land area.
David Pretty CBE, Chairman of the New Homes Marketing Board, said: “As a snapshot of the
great British public‟s thinking, this poll is both encouraging and disturbing. People really do now
recognise that we have a housing crisis, are understandably worried by it and seem to accept that
urgent action must be taken to address it.
“But when it comes to the detail, significant numbers of people still buy into the hoary old myths
about the Green Belt and countryside disappearing under concrete and builders landbanking, and
many more are confused or unsure about the implications for themselves, their communities and
As well as showing that 80 per cent of the population believes housing shortage is a serious
national issue, the NHMB poll also demonstrated that even more (82 per cent) felt that the
support of local communities was important to the new homes development process.
Mr Pretty added: “We have been saying for some time that it is for all of us – central and local
Government, the housebuilding industry, the many agencies working to increase housing supply
– to do everything we can to get the facts and realities across to the public and especially to local
communities so that they can play their part. Without the support of communities, the
Government‟s housing targets are going to be very difficult to achieve.
“An earlier YouGov poll conducted for us showed that the majority of people are really beginning
to understand the full seriousness of the housing shortage, but far fewer declared themselves
ready to embrace new housing in their own neighbourhoods. That conflict of opinion is not
sustainable and really has to change if, as a nation, we are going to get on top of our housing
1. View YouGov survey [27 November 2007]
2. Previous press release on the lost generation of first-time buyers [2 October 2007)
3. Previous press release on the worsening plight of first-time buyers [29 October
4. HBF Calcutt Review submission [3 July 2007]
Housing Myths and Facts
1) Myth: Home building poses a threat to Greenbelt land and to the countryside
When polled, 71% of the general public said that the Greenbelt had decreased over the last
10 years (New Homes Marketing Board YouGov Poll, November 2007).
In fact, between 1997 and 2004 England‟s greenbelt actually increased from
1,650,000 to 1,678,200 hectares (an expansion of 1.7%). Green Belt land now
comprises 13% of total land in England (CLG local planning authority green belt
statistics, January 2007).
Home builders are happy to build on brownfield land. Between 1997 and 2006 the
proportion of new homes built on such sites in fact increased from 53% to 74%, well
ahead of the Government target of 60% (CLG, 2007).
Contrary to many people‟s perception, only 8% of land in the UK is classed as urban.
This is half the figure in Holland and lower than Belgium, Denmark and Germany
(“Unaffordable housing –fables and myths”, Policy Exchange Report, June 2005).
Even building 120,000 new homes per year in the South East – four times the current
rate – we would only use an additional 0.75% of the total land area of the South East
over the next ten years. (“Review of Housing Supply – Final Report” Kate Barker,
2) Myth: Home builders sit on land which could be used for housing
When polled, 65% of the general public said that 'land banking' was an influential factor in
causing the housing shortage (New Homes Marketing Board YouGov Poll, November 2007).
The figures show the larger home builders have an average reported implementable
land bank of 2.4 years. Of the implementable land bank, only 2.6% of plots were on
sites where work had not started three months after permission was granted. In other
words, there is no evidence house builders sit on implementable planning
permissions (HBF Research, November 2006).
It actually takes an average of 15 months for home builders to receive full planning
permission on sites they wish to develop. This excludes time taken for pre-application
discussions which can extend thewhole process to over 2 years in many cases (HBF
Research, November 2006). This compares to around 3 months 25 years ago.
Due to delays in the planning system, between 1997 and 2003 the amount of land
coming forward for development annually fell by 7% (CLG Land-use change
Currently, an average of 35% of residential planning applications are rejected, well
up from previous averages of around 16% a decade ago (CLG Quarterly planning
performance statistics, 2007).
Other Housing Facts
UK population is set to grow to 71 million by 2031 (ONS, 2007)
Last year around 160,000 new homes were built in England (CLG, 2007)
Whilst housing output has increased in recent years it is still lower than previous decades
e.g, in 1927, 80 years ago, 255,000 homes were built in Great Britain (CLG).
Projected household growth in England is 223,000 (CLG, 2007)
This leaves a current annual shortfall of 63,000 homes
The cumulative shortfall is estimated to be at least 450,000 in England alone (Kate
The average house in England costs more than seven times average salary moving to
nine-and-a-half times by 2026 (National Housing and Planning Advice Unit, 2007)
Note: CLG – Communities and Local Government department.
ONS – Office for National Statistics
New Homes Marketing Board
The New Homes Marketing Board (NHMB) was established in 1982 by the House Builders‟
Federation (HBF, now the Home Builders‟ Federation) to promote their activities to consumers.
The NHMB is supported by HBF members and the majority of home builders registered with the
National House Building Council, as well as material producers, suppliers, and associated
The NHMB also promotes the need for new housing to the general public and raises awareness
of the benefits of new homes. In promoting a positive image of the housing industry‟s aims and
activities the NHMB supports the HBF‟s political and media campaigns.
Founded in May 2000, YouGov is a professional market research agency pioneering the use of
the Internet and information technology to collect higher-quality in-depth data for market research
and public consultation.
YouGov proactively recruits respondents from all ages, socio economic groups and regions of
Britain. The sample for each survey is carefully selected and controlled so that it is representative
of the adult population as a whole.
Because of their online data collection methodology, YouGov's data is of higher quality than that
required by the use of conventional market research techniques.
Biographical information: David Pretty
David A Pretty stepped down as Group Chief Executive of Barratt Developments PLC at the end
of 2006 after 40 years in the industry, 27 of them with Barratt. He is one of housebuilding‟s best-
known figures, having been active at senior management level for well over 25 years. He has
also worked in North America, France and the Far East. In the Queen's Birthday Honours List
2007, he was made a CBE for services to housebuilding.
Although recognised primarily for his leading role in the fields of urban regeneration, land buying
and marketing, he is also considered a pioneer of social housing partnership development in the
inner-cities. He undertook one of the first private-public partnerships in London 25 years ago and,
as CEO of Barratt, headed the nation‟s largest single provider of social housing. He steered the
Barratt Group to „Housebuilder of the Year‟ status on several occasions.
Mr Pretty was personally named the UK‟s Regeneration Champion in the national Regeneration
Awards in December 2006.
Since retirement from Barratt, he has remained active in the housebuilding sector, as a Director
of the Home Builders Federation (HBF), Chairman of the New Homes Marketing Board, a trustee
of The Prince‟s Regeneration Trust and an appeal board member of Shelter, the homelessness
charity. He is also a non-executive Director of McCarthy & Stone, Britain's largest provider of
private retirement housing.
He has, for many years, actively campaigned to highlight the causes of the housing shortage and
the plight of first-time buyers. He contributes regularly to trade publications and is an occasional
advisor to Government on housing issues. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
He lives in South West London and has two daughters and six grand children.
For media information please contact Bob Barlow, Chris Lynch or Ronan Cloud
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