British citizens aren’t alone in their grievances regarding the condition and cost of housing within their nation, but they possess substantial grounds for such complaints.

Among OECD nations, only Finland allocates a larger portion of its total expenditure towards housing than British workers do. Furthermore, research conducted by the Resolution Foundation, a thinktank focusing on living standards, indicates that even after adjusting for factors like size, age, and proximity to employment opportunities, housing expenses in the UK surpass those of any other developed economy.

Viewers of the television show “Friends” often remark on the spaciousness of Monica Geller’s apartment, considering her career stage and the New York setting. However, the data suggests that this observation may be skewed by comparatively lower British standards. Even residents in central New York City enjoy more floor space on average than the typical English individual, with nearly a quarter more space than Londoners.

In terms of housing size, England lags behind countries such as Germany, Denmark, France, Taiwan, and Japan (with Japan recently surpassing England, despite historically smaller homes). Moreover, no EU member possesses a housing stock as old as Britain’s, with nearly four in ten current UK homes constructed prior to the conclusion of the Second World War. This figure is double that of the Netherlands and almost four times the number in Finland, the sole nation spending more on housing overall than the UK.

Consequently, UK homes exhibit subpar energy efficiency and are often plagued by issues like dampness, as noted by the Resolution Foundation. Additionally, Britons endure longer commutes than the EU average, compounding the inconvenience of residing in expensive, compact, antiquated, and low-quality housing.

Given these circumstances, it’s unsurprising that British individuals tend to avoid purchasing excessive housing. Within Europe, only Ireland and Germany boast lower rates of second-home ownership than England. Comparatively, Austria and Canada, countries with similar overall expenditure levels to the UK, acquire nearly a quarter more housing than British citizens do.

Regarding housing policy, the government proposed the Renters (Reform) Bill in 2019, aiming to fortify renters’ rights, prohibit “no-fault” evictions, and establish a Decent Homes Standard for the private sector. However, despite almost five years passing, the bill has yet to progress through parliament, and its future remains uncertain.

Labour has put forward a “renters’ charter,” which would also outlaw “no-fault” evictions and include provisions such as allowing renters to own pets or make reasonable alterations to properties. Additionally, Labour intends to implement a four-month notice period for landlords and abolish automatic evictions for rent arrears. Sir Keir Starmer has further pledged to reinstate targets for building 300,000 homes annually under a Labour government.

The Conservative Party, in its 2019 manifesto, pledged to construct 300,000 homes annually, a target that has not been achieved and has since been relegated to advisory status by Housing Secretary Michael Gove. Different advisories exist for increased social housing, departing from unmet targets.

Both parties have outlined plans to aid first-time buyers, with the Conservatives proposing an extension of the Help to Buy scheme, which provides first-time buyers with funds to purchase affordable new-build properties with a minimal deposit. Labour, on the other hand, proposes granting first-time buyers precedence over existing homeowners in purchasing new-build properties, although the practical implementation of this scheme remains unclear.

Additionally, both parties intend to abolish the leasehold system (except for flats), restrict short-term and holiday lets, and enhance the energy efficiency of homes.

Adam Corlett, principal economist at the Resolution Foundation, anticipates that Britain’s housing crisis will be a prominent issue in the upcoming election campaign. He asserts that successive governments’ failure to construct an adequate number of new homes and modernise existing housing stock over several decades necessitates a change in approach.

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