Authored by Professor Alan W. Evans and Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich for Policy Exchange, Unaffordable Housing shows that the British culture of centrally planned development (established by the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act and embraced to this day by politicians of all parties) has resulted in a shortage of affordable, desirable, high-quality housing.
But is it what we want? And if not, why do we still support the system that provides them?
Defenders of the status quo owner-occupiers, conservationists and NIMBYs use a number of arguments to support their position. These groups argue that we live in a small, overcrowded island, that new development is only "sustainable" if it takes place on brown field land or through the densification of towns and cities, and that a buoyant housing market is crucial for the economy.
Unaffordable Housing argues that these are myths that can be debunked. The UK is less densely populated than other European countries, but we do live in overcrowded conurbations while devoting a massive share of our land to agriculture. As a result, our cities are becoming less attractive as we densify existing settlements in order to save our abundant supply of green fields.
Nor are rising house prices the boon they appear, benefiting only a small minority (older homeowners trading down). For others, rising prices prevent them from buying or renting accommodation of a similar size and quality to that which their parents could afford. This has a macroeconomic impact too, as constraints on the supply of housing accentuate the instability of the economy and make Britain a less attractive place to do business.
· According to a 2005 MORI poll, 95 per cent of people would prefer to live in a house of some kind. Yet in 2004 one half of all new dwellings built were flats.
· Only 8 per cent of land in Britain is urban, half the figure in the Netherlands and also less than Belgium, Germany and Denmark.
· 78 per cent of UK land is used for agriculture, compared to an EU average of 64.2 per cent
· In the last 32 years the number of households has risen by one-third, outstripping the growth in the housing stock.
· Low rise, low density housing is better for the environment than monocultural farmland.
· Only an estimated 14 per cent of the houses we need could be built on brown field sites.
· Far from having lots of vacant buildings, our vacancy rate is very low by international standards.