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Government / Local politics

Support for housebuilding in Britain has doubled in four years

Great news, for those who are official signed up members of the “Build More Bloody Houses” brigade: a growing share of British people want to, well, build more bloody houses.

This from the latest bulletin from the British Social Attitudes Survey. Over the last four years, the share of respondents who are opposed to any and all house building has collapsed –  from nearly half in 2010 (46 per cent) to just a fifth last year (21 per cent).

Over the same period, the number who support it has nearly doubled, from 29 per cent to 56 per cent. In other words, in 2010, net opposition to house building stood at 17 points. By last year, that had become net support of 35 points.

What’s more, there appears to have been a particularly pronounced movement over the last year. Support might (just might, mind you) be snowballing.

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This and other images are screenshots from “Public attitudes to house building: Findings from the 2014 British Social Attitudes Survey”.

The survey also breaks the same figures down into regular opinions and strong opinions. Those reflect the same pattern.

There’s a lot more in there, but most of it supports the same conclusion. Britain is increasingly in favour of building more houses.


Now – it’s important not to get too excited about this. Supporting house building in the abstract is not the same thing as supporting house building, over there, on that nice green bit down the road from your house where you like to walk the dog.

And many of the specific policies we may have to enact if we’re to build 250,000 homes a year, the magic number the experts say we need if we’re to solve this crisis, are still likely to run into opposition. Few people want to live in high rises or spend significant public money on house building. Extremely few want to touch the green belt, or face higher taxes on their own property. We are a very long way from a solution.

Nonetheless, these figures show that attitudes are changing; that a growing share of people recognise that, whatever Simon Jenkins likes to tell himself, the housing crisis isn’t a myth, and that solving it will mean building more.

That’s not a sufficient condition to clean up this mess – but it is a necessary one.

A few other things that grabbed us about the survey:

  • Opposition fell or remained static across all age, tenure and income groups, and among respondents living in different types of areas.  So, yay.
  • But attitudes do still vary. Homeowners and those living in rural areas or small towns are less likely to favour building; big cities types and (obviously) renters are more likely to favour it.

  • A significant chunk of people (42 per cent) say they’d be more supportive of new homes if they were properly consulted on them. That’s not as many as the number for whom it’d make no difference (45 per cent), but still, it’s worth bearing in mind.
  • The survey also asked the question: “If the government were going to do something to make homes more affordable, what do you think the most useful action would be?”

The most popular response by far (38 per cent) was “financial assistance for first time buyers” (next was handing money to housing associations and local authorities, at 27 per cent).

In other words, a significant number of people don’t want cheaper housing – they just want more people to be able to access it at its current price.

If you were wondering why the coalition has been mucking around with its Help To Buy Policy, this might be a big reason why.
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