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Will More House Building Really Ease House Prices?

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UK Housing Market  UK Housing Supply and Demand  House Building Statistics  Average House Prices  Mortgage Lending 

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Will More House Building Really Ease House Prices?

I have been in and around the property industry for a few years now and subsequently seen both boom and bust in the UK housing sector. What never ceases to amaze me is how the attribution of cause and causality changes as time goes by when a market transforms from boom to bust relatively quickly.

There are two main "solutions" touted for resolving the UK's house price situation:

  • Build more homes (amid suggestions that housing supply and demand is out of balance)
  • Force the banks to lend more and require lower deposits

I am not convinced that these proposals – individually or combined – can or will solve the problem. So, in a bid to get to the bottom of it I have been doing a little number crunching and colouring-in a fancy chart.

The data I will be using to demonstrate these changes over time is from the UK government – freely available to download (if you can find it – one would think such data should be reasonably easy to find – but oh no! (hat-tip to @HenryPryor for some pointers to the older data)).

DATA CAVEAT

All of the data used is from the same source – the only edits made were to add 2011 to the compiled 1969-2010 data. I know the numbers are not the same as those found from the myriad of sites available proffering house price indices before everyone starts comparing. The point is ALL of the numbers are from the same source. If you think the numbers are inaccurate – take it up with the government!

Whilst regular readers will know I am not a fan of average house price statistics and regard them as being as useful as a doorbell on the hatch of a submarine – this IS one of the rare occasions that such statistics can be used with a modicum of relevance over a sustained period of time. (i.e. 1969 to 2011 rather than last month to this month)

I will resist the temptation to rant in this post and simply point out a few areas of interest in the chart itself and leave you to draw your own interpretations and conclusions on what the statistics show.

UK Housing - Construction vs Prices

(Click the chart to see the full size version

My observations

When comparing the thick blue and red lines (average house price and total properties built) there are a few things to note:

  • Between 1982-1988 and again 2001-2007 there was a rise in the volume of properties built, and yet, house prices continued to rise.
  • Between 1990-1995 average prices appear to stabilise – this would be down to a market correction after the stock market crash and a need for cash – yet during this period construction rose too.
  • 1996 is when the first Buy to Let mortgage was released. Since then, more and more Buy to Let mortgages have been made available – note the continued rise in prices at the same time.

The claim by many that building more homes will somehow bring house prices back to an affordable level doesn't quite wash – if it did, we would see direct negative correlation of prices over construction – we are starting to see this happen for 2010/11 but just one year of statistics does not prove an exception to the rule with any constant.

With respect to lending more and reducing deposit size – well, I'll say it again – if you are a government and your people are broke, lending them money is not going to help. If anything it is going to make things worse.

One last point for local authorities. The light blue line representing your house building activity is abysmal to say the least – where has all the cash gone that you had in the 70's and 80's?


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