Vast Majority Supports More House Building

New poll shows public anxiety over housing shortage.

A new poll published today shows that 72% of people agree that Britain needs more homes. While a majority would prefer that new homes were not built on their own street, 71% would have no objections to building more homes in their town or village and 55% think that their council should actively encourage more house building in their area.


The results of the poll, conducted by YouGov for the House Builders Federation, reflect deep-seated concerns about the affordability of homes in Britain: 67% of people believe that housing affordability is a serious problem for young people and for people on average incomes. The need for homes for first-time buyers tops the list of what should matter most when building new homes.

The poll also reveals that most people are not opposed to the sensible development of greenfield land.

65% of people agree that "new homes should be built on greenfield sites if they are needed locally, no brownfield sites are available and care is taken to preserve the environment as far as possible."

The poll is released on the day of the House Builders Federation conference focusing on Kate Barker's "Review of Housing Supply". The Barker Review, published in March 2004, was commissioned by the Chancellor and the Deputy Prime Minister to investigate the adequacy of housing supply in the UK. The report concludes that continuing the current low rate of house building is not a realistic option.

The Review estimates that between 70,000 - 120,000 extra private homes are needed each year in England and recommends a number of reforms to the planning system.

"This poll is extremely revealing about public attitudes towards house building," says Rob Ashmead, Chief Executive of the House Builders Federation. "It helps to redefine the terms of debate. The public clearly recognises that we face a serious housing problem. More importantly, people want to address it - even when this means building new homes in their own area."

"All too often the debate about house building is dominated by a group of vocal, well organised NIMBYs. This poll shows how unrepresentative they can be."

"We need to move away from whether Britain needs more homes to how we provide them - in a rational, responsible and sustainable way that takes on board all the concerns that increased house building inevitably raises."

The House Builders Federation's (HBF) 300 member firms account for over 80% of all new houses built in England and Wales in any one year, and includes companies of all sizes, ranging from multi-national, household names through regionally based businesses to small local companies.

The results of the poll are below.

Results of YouGov Poll for House Builders Federation, May 2004

- Almost three out of four respondents (72%) agree that Britain needs more homes. Just 21% disagree.

- However, half the public (48%) would oppose a decision to build more homes in their street. The biggest resistance to new homes in their street comes from Conservative voters (59%), and people who live in villages and rural areas (also 59%)

- However, just 29% would oppose a decision to build more homes locally, beyond their street. Once again, opposition is greatest among Conservatives (39%) and village/rural dwellers (40%). However, even among these two groups, opponents are outnumbered by those who would support, or not mind, such a decision.

- Opposition falls to 18% when people are asked about a decision to build homes in their region beyond their locality, and to 13% when asked about a decision to build homes beyond their region.

- Opinion is evenly divided on whether people who complain about new housing in their area are representative of local views. Village/rural dwellers are most likely to consider such complainants representative (52% hold this view), while the under 30s (36%), Scots (37%) and inner city dwellers (37%) least likely to hold this view.

- Asked whether their local council should encourage or discourage more house-building in their area, a narrow majority (55%) say their council should encourage without qualification (43%) or "encourage - but not within 100 yards of where I live" (12%). 23% say "discourage", while a further 11% want the council to try and prevent such building.

- Among village/rural dwellers, opinions are more divided, with 48% opting for one of the two "encourage" options, and 45% for one of the discourage/try to prevent options. But even here, the biggest single group is the 33% who simply say "encourage".

- Just over half the public (54%) think that the main responsibility for deciding if new homes should be built in their area should reside with their local council, rather than the government (7%) or a regional planning body (35%).

- Support for council-responsibility is greatest among village/rural dwellers (64%) and lowest among inner city dwellers (43%).

- Asked which two, of a list of eight, reasons for building new homes should carry the most weight, 44% plump for "the need for homes for first-time buyers". The next three most favoured reasons all scored around 30%: "the impact of building new homes on the local environment and the countryside", "the impact of new homes on local public services", and "the need for affordable homes for parents with young children". 22% opted for "the need for new homes for key workers such as nurses and teachers". (In London, concern for housing for key workers jumps to 33%, and comes a close second behind the impact of new homes on local public services.)

- Three reasons attracted little support: "The impact of building new homes on jobs and the local economy (12%), "the need to spread the house-building programme across Britain", and "the need to spread the house-building programme across your region".

- One person in four (27%) thinks "new homes should never be built on Greenfield sites". Just 5% say "I don't mind new homes being built on Greenfield sites". A clear majority, 65%, agrees that "new homes should be built on Greenfield sites if they are needed locally, no brownfield sites are available and care is taken to preserve the environment as far as possible". Support for this option is fairly constant across all demographic, political and geographical groups.

- However 78% consider that building new homes hold either "a very significant" or "fairly significant" threat to the countryside.

- Asked what kind of house they would prefer to live in if they were buying a new home, 64% say they would prefer a house or apartment that had been lived in before, while 26% would prefer to buy a new home.

- Two-thirds of respondents (67%) think the affordability of homes for young people in their area is a serious problem. The same number believes it is true that "within the next five years, a shortage of housing will be a serious problem for Britain."

- Half the public (52%) thinks that the building of new homes and flats would make the price of housing more affordable; however 41% disagree.

- Taking everything into account, half the public (51%) thinks that on balance we should increase the number of homes being built, while one person in three (34%) disagrees. The remaining 15% do not take sides on this issue. Labour voters favour new building by two-to-one (58-27%), while Conservatives are evenly divided (42% favour, 46% oppose). Inner city residents agree by 58-22%, while village/rural dwellers divide: 47% favour, 41% oppose.

- If new homes are to be built in their area, most (59%) favour "smaller homes for home-owners". Respondents were asked to pick one or two top priorities from a list of five.) Council housing (37%) is the next-most favoured, followed by flats for home-owners (21%). The public lowest priorities are larger homes for home-owners (15%) and housing for private rental (13%).

PR Newswire, 26.05.2004

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