House-building to hit lowest levels since 1923

The building of homes this year has been propped up by housing associations, who are set to build more than 45,000 homes in England by April this year – with the aid of record levels of public investment and more flexible government grants via the Home and Communities Agency. This will be the highest total achieved by the affordable housing sector for a decade.

A record 4.5 million people in England are stuck on housing waiting lists and rising unemployment and repossessions has further fuelled demand for affordable housing during the economic downturn.

But supply has failed to keep pace with demand and the prospects of getting an affordable home are looking bleaker than ever for millions of Britons.

Since the mid-1960s there has been a long-term downward trend in the number of new homes built. In 1964/5, 387,000 homes were built, and in 1965/6 347,000 were constructed. The last time more than 200,000 were delivered was 1988/89, when 214,000 homes were built.

Amazingly, the number of new homes expected this year was exceeded eight times during the nineteenth century, with 135,000 new homes being delivered as far back as 1875/6.

Given the scale of the country’s housing crisis, the Federation has called on the three major political parties to go into the forthcoming general election with a pledge to ring-fence spending on housing – in the same way that ministers have pledged to protect investment in health, education and policing.

The Federation said that unless spending on housing was ring-fenced, the consequences would be dire for millions of families stuck on housing waiting lists.

Assessing the Pre-Budget Report, the Institute of Fiscal Studies said that cuts of 17.98% would have to be made to all government departmental budgets if current levels of investment are maintained in health, education and policing.

A 17.98% cut to the housing budget would see the completion of only half the million affordable homes the Government had planned to build by 2020, adding an extra 1.25 million people to housing waiting lists.

More than 2.3 million people are currently living in overcrowded housing in England, and that number is expected to increase rapidly over the next five years due to the chronic shortage of affordable homes. Overcrowding is linked to poor health, family breakdown and can have a damaging impact on children’s education.

NHF chief executive David Orr said: "The number of new homes built during 2009/10 is set to hit an 87-year low, plunging the country into the worst housing crisis for generations.

"The delivery of new homes this year has been propped up by housing associations, who have built just under half the total number – with the aid of record levels of public investment and more flexible government grants via the Home and Communities Agency.

"With record housing waiting lists and overcrowding reaching epidemic proportions in many places across the country, the need for more affordable housing has never been greater.

"The three main political parties must demonstrate their commitment to helping the millions of Britons in desperate need of an affordable home by pledging to safeguard investment in housing – and giving it the same priority as health, education and policing."

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