19 October 2011
In this research study – undertaken on behalf of IF by housing expert Matt Griffith – IF calls for a new approach to try to solve the housing crisis facing young people.
Britain has a national shortage of good-quality, affordable housing. Most policy interventions in the housing market aim to either boost supply (which has proved extremely difficult) or improve access to finance (which tends to just stoke house prices even further). In this report, IF argues instead that we need to look at how our existing housing supply is allocated between different types of household – in particular, drawing attention to the national surplus of 25 million spare bedrooms in houses which are officially “under-occupied” across England.
This report argues that this is an intergenerational problem. Much of this spare capacity belongs to elderly households who still live in family-sized houses after their children have grown up and moved out. Meanwhile, younger households are being blocked from getting on the property ladder, and suffer the highest levels of overcrowding.
IF argues for a series of targeted policy interventions which seek to encourage older households to downsize – a move which has become less common among older households in England compared to other ageing countries, such as the USA. If we can unlock the spare potential that exists within England’s existing housing stock, we can go a long way towards solving the housing crisis without having to negotiate all the obstacles that have prevented new homes from being built.