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Revealed: the hardest places in the UK to buy a home

December 8, 2022

The UK doesn’t have one big housing crisis, it has many localised housing crises. Driving these crises are several factors: a shortage of homes being built; the number of empty homes, and brownfield sites not being utilised. In this article we reveal the hardest places for first-time buyers to find a home and ways to tackle the UK housing crisis.

Revealed: the worst places to find a new home in the UK

Based on the factors explained below, recent research from Cia Landlords has revealed that Liverpool is the city with the biggest housing crisis in the UK. Leicester comes in second and Bristol is the third most difficult place to find a home. Sheffield, Reading and Cardiff also made the list, and it’s no coincidence that house prices have also shot up recently in these cities.

How to calculate a housing crisis

There are many ways to interpret the data in order to help explain what’s happening with the UK housing crisis. One calculation involves dividing the population of a given city or town by the average number of people living in a single property. This will reveal how many properties each city needs, which can be compared against the number of homes currently available.

Another way to examine the health of the housing market in a particular city or area is to look at the average time a house stays on the market, as demand can create an especially cutthroat housing market.

What’s driving the housing crisis?

1. Not enough homes are being built

The UK government built only 37,164 houses between April 2021 and March 2022 – despite setting its own target to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. Between 2011 and 2021, the population grew faster or at the same pace as the number of homes in nearly half of local authorities, according to the 2021 Census.

Even where the rate of building has kept up with population growth, there is still not enough housing because too few homes were built in previous years. People are also moving into cities and towns that were less popular a decade ago, creating demand in new areas.

2. Brownfield sites aren’t being properly used

Another major factor driving the housing crisis is that brownfield sites are being overlooked by councils and developers for housing developments.

Brownfield sites are areas of land that have been built on before. Common brownfield sites include former transport hubs, retail parks and industrial sites such as factories or dockland. Since brownfield sites are generally located in cities and towns where infrastructure such as public transport is already in place, brownfield developments have been heralded as a sustainable solution to the UK’s housing problem.

Greenfield sites are areas of land which have not been built on before – such as farmland, woods and wetlands. Building on greenfield sites is often cheaper and more time effective for developers as industrial brownfield sites may require lengthy and expensive decontamination processes. Making it easier and more cost effective to build on brownfield sites could help address the housing crises gripping cities across the UK.

Shifting residential building projects towards brownfield developments would have real-life impacts relatively quickly. For example, Plymouth, Nottingham and Portsmouth could ease their housing crisis by at least 30% if they took advantage of their brownfield housing potential.

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Top five cities with a housing deficit to benefit from brownfield maximisation

3. Thousands of houses are lying empty

Around 310,000 homes are empty in England, Scotland and Wales, with England responsible for the vast majority at 238,000. These figures are for residences that have been vacant for over six months – reasons for vacancy include rental properties that haven’t been let, inherited homes and repossession. If second homes and short-term vacant properties are included, the number is close to 1 million.

Due to London’s size, it has the most empty homes with a whopping 87,731. As London house prices average at £1.5 million, the cost of vacant homes in the capital is approximately £131.5 billion. The majority of empty homes outside the capital are in Northern England, with Blackpool, Burnley and Liverpool at the top of the list. But vacant homes are an issue throughout the UK. Cities such as Bournemouth, Bristol and Brighton & Hove also have vacant homes worth millions of pounds that could help alleviate the housing crisis if they were to be sold and occupied. Over 86% of Glasgow’s housing deficit could be met if the long-term vacant homes in the city were inhabited.

How to use this data to aid your home purchase

If you live in Liverpool, Leicester or Bristol – or any of the other cities experiencing a major housing crisis – you’ll already know how difficult it is to buy the home you want. One way to use this data to your advantage is to consider a home in an area without such a pronounced housing deficit. As remote or hybrid working becomes more common, many people are searching for a different kind of life, with less time spent commuting and more time spent in the home they love.

If moving areas isn’t an option – either due to your employment, family or other ties, or simply because you don’t want to compromise on location – looking beyond traditional lenders might give you greater flexibility. StrideUp’s shared-ownership model could boost your buying power and open up neighbourhoods that would be otherwise out of reach with other types of home finance. Interested? Give a friendly StrideUp adviser a call today on 020 3875 3585.

Share your story

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