Housing

UK housing is worst value for money of any advanced economy: 'We are a joke'

UK homes are smaller, in worse condition and cost more than other countries also experiencing a housing crisis, according to analysis from the Resolution Foundation

UK houses are the worst value for money

English homes have an average floor space per person that's smaller than other nations despite inflated house prices and rents. Image: Chris Flexen / Unsplash

UK homes are smaller, poorer quality and more costly than other major countries facing a housing crisis, according to analysis from the Resolution Foundation, with the think tank’s chief executive describing the country’s housing as a “joke”.

Resolution Foundation researchers pitted British homes against European nations like France, Italy and Germany as well as other countries around the world like Japan and the USA using OECD data on housing costs, floor space and other factors.

The results showed the UK lagged behind on many measures with Brits paying more for less in terms of size and quality. As Torsten Bell, the think tank’s chief executive put it: “We are, in short, a joke.”

The UK is far from the only country experiencing a housing crisis but the Resolution Foundation analysis suggests that the negative impacts are being felt much more than in other nations.

Brits spend more of their income on housing – thanks to sky-high house prices and rents – than any other advanced economy bar Finland but that money does not go far.

English homes have an average floor space per person of 38m2 but that is far less than similar nations including the USA (66m2), Germany (46m2), France (43m2) and Japan (40m2).

Even parts of the world where space is notoriously at a premium like New York City fare better than English homes with 43m2 per person in the Big Apple, while Brits get 24% less space for their money than in Austria and 22% less in Canada.

The UK’s housing stock is also older – and, as a result, less energy efficient and more likely to face damp and mould issues – than other European nations. Almost 40% of UK homes were built before 1946, compared to 21% of homes in Italy and 11% in Spain, for example.

Taking these factors into account, the UK was far and away the worst value for money ahead of New Zealand, Australia and Ireland.

Adam Corlett, principal economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Britain’s housing crisis is likely to be a big topic in the election campaign, as parties debate how to address the problems of high costs, poor quality and low security that face so many households.

“Britain is one of many countries apparently in the midst of a housing crisis, and it can be difficult to separate rhetoric from reality. But by looking at housing costs, floor space and wider issues of quality, we find that the UK’s expensive, cramped and ageing housing stock offers the worst value for money of any advanced economy.

“Britain’s housing crisis is decades in the making, with successive governments failing to build enough new homes and modernise our existing stock. That now has to change.”

The government has failed to hit the 2019 Conservative manifesto target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s with 235,000 homes built last year.

Awaab’s Law – new legislation intended to improve the quality of social housing – is due to come into force on 1 April. But the Renters Reform Bill is making slow progress through Parliament, putting plans to bring in a decent homes standard to the private rented sector on pause for now.

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “Housebuilding is a government priority and despite global economic challenges we remain on track to meet the manifesto commitment of delivering one million homes this parliament, and have introduced reforms to improve the planning system.

“At the same time as increasing the quantity of homes we are driving up quality, with the number of non-decent homes down by two million since 2010.

“Our landmark renters reform bill is progressing through parliament and will give tenants more security in their homes, while our £11.5bn investment in the affordable homes programme and £1.2bn local authority housing fund will help build a new generation of affordable and social housing.”

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