According to shocking figures compiled by the National Housing Federation, Leeds house prices have massively outstripped local incomes. You’d need a 62% pay rise on the average local income to buy the average local house. The chances of the young getting on the housing ladder are receding fast. Housing is in crisis in the UK – and locally here in Leeds. That crisis is generational and deeply unfair. The Tory government helped create it – we’re unconvincec by their plans to address it.
According to the NFH’s figures, in Leeds the average house price in 2014 was £178,156, the average rent in 2013/14 was £819 per month.
NFH estimated that the income required for an 80% mortgage on an average Leeds house would be £40,721. But mean annual earnings in Leeds stand at £25,054 – and the unemployment rate stands at 8.4%.
The ratio of house prices to incomes in the city is a staggering 7.1:1.
And the shortfall of houses built from 2011 to 2014 was 12,824.
The growing problem of in-work poverty is highlighted by the fact that 20.2% of those claiming housing benefit in the city are in employment.
The situation is replicated over Yorkshire as a whole.
The National Housing Federation’s 2015/16 Home Truths report for Yorkshire and the Humber found:
• Unemployment levels are higher than the national average at 7.4%, rising even further in areas such as Hull (11.7%) and Bradford (8.9%)
• And that being in work is no guarantee of being able to pay housing costs, with the number of employed people claiming housing benefit up more than 19% since 2008.
In Yorkshire and Humber alone, in 2014/15 11,040 too few homes were built to keep up with demand.
Yet forecasts show that 342,000 new households will form in the region by 2037.
The shortfall in housebuilding is at record levels. As John Healey, Labour’s Shadow Housing minister, said in the debate on the Housing and Planning Bill on 2 November
‘. . . .the last Government [i.e. the LibDem/Tory Coalition] built fewer homes than any peacetime Government since Lloyd George’s in the 1920s. The lowest number of homes built under Labour was in 2009, when the figure was 124,980. That was at the depths, following the deepest economic crisis and recession for 100 years, but it was still higher than in 2014, the year in which the highest number of homes—117,720—were built under the Tories. They have had five years of failure on all fronts.”
The Tories’ housing record, and that of the Coalition before them, have been disastrous.
‘While family incomes have stagnated, ever-rising private rents on new lettings are up by a fifth—by £1,600 a year—since 2010. Homelessness halved under Labour, but it is up by more than a third under the Tories, and it is rising rapidly. Housing benefit costs to the taxpayer have risen by almost £4.5 billion during the past five years, despite some punishing cuts for ordinary people, such as the bedroom tax. At the same time, housing investment was slashed.’
Yet in these circumstances, the Tories’ answer was to sell off yet more of the affordable rented housing stock from Housing Associations – a policy which, as John Healey noted last October
‘fails the test of good social policy and the test of sound economics. It squanders a long-term asset by selling it on the cheap.. . . . taxpayers will bear the cost three times over—first, for the public investment to build the homes; secondly, for the discount to sell them; and thirdly, for the higher housing benefit bill that will come when these homes are bought to let again to tenants at full market rents. . . This extreme policy is a bad deal for tenants and a bad deal for the taxpayer.’
And in spite of the reliance of so many struggling families on housing benefit, Osborne looks set to raid that to meet his unrealistic promises to cut the welfare budget.
As for his ‘affordable’ and ‘starter’ homes policy, the mismatch between house prices and Leeds’ incomes shows just how hollow Tory promises here are. As Shelter has pointed out, the Tories’ policies here have, so far, provided homes only for those who are on well above average income.
Housing is in crisis – nationally, in Yorkshire and the Humber, and here in Leeds. It is a crisis which is especially acute in its effects on the young. It is a crisis which adds to the growing evidence of rising in-work poverty. It is a crisis to which the Tory government has so far had no answers. In our view, there are no answers which do not involve a massive increase in the building of social housing.
George Osborne will make big promises today. We’ll judge him on the results. His past performance doesn’t give us much confidence he has the policies which can deliver.