Demand for homes has increased, fuelled in part by a rising population, but construction work has failed to keep up with the pace of that demand.
This BBC Briefing estimates that the size of the housing supply gap - the difference between the available stock and the number of homes needed for everyone to have a decent place to live - may be in excess of one million homes.
What to do about it is a question that divides policymakers, economists and the public.
There is no single easy solution - it all depends on your circumstances and where you live.
The situation is made more complicated because responsibility for housing policy is spilt between different bodies. And over the past 40 years, direct government powers to increase housing supply have given way to more private sector involvement.
At the same time, public awareness of housing as an issue is increasing. Homelessness and overcrowding are on the rise, home ownership has been declining and there is a shortage of social homes.
That's why housing has been chosen as the third topic for the BBC Briefing - a series of in-depth online guides analysing the big issues in the news.
The housing guide aims to provide useful context, reliable data and evidence in one place, which you can read wherever you are.
Credit, BBC, February 2020. Read the full briefing here
Some key statistics from the report:
- Homelessness affects 140,000 families, including an estimated 120,000 adults and 200,000 children. Most homeless people are not living on the street but in temporary accommodation or shelters, or are sleeping on friends’ sofas
- The number of people sleeping rough – more than 5,000 - has almost tripled since 2010
- In England, 85,000 households are in temporary accommodation, such as short-term private rentals; temporary social housing stock; and B&Bs and hostels - with an additional 10,000 on the waiting list for such accommodation
- In April 2018, there were 1.11 million households on English local authority waiting lists, down from a peak of just over 1.8 million in 2012
- “Non-decent”: The government defines a home as “non-decent” when it is not in a reasonable state of repair, does not have reasonably modern facilities and services, or has ineffective insulation or heating. According to the English Housing Survey, 4.3 million households in England were living in “nondecent” homes in 2018 - about one-sixth of all households
- In 2018 the average age of a first-time-buyer was 30 – only a slight increase on 40 years ago partly because poorer people, who are unlikely to get on the property ladder, are not reflected in the figures
- The majority of homes in the UK, almost two-thirds, are owner-occupied
- The remainder are rented, with ownership split between the public and the private sectors. The private sector is now almost twice the size of the public sector
- Compared with other European countries, the UK: has the largest proportion of homes built before 1970 and the second-highest proportion built before 1919
- Houses account for 80% of the UK’s housing stock and flats just 20%
- The rental costs of a given property are 30-50% higher than buying the same property over, say, a 10- year period
- Those renting a property pay 3.5% - 4% of its value each year, but end up with no asset, and tend to pay more in rent as the value of the property increases
- UK house prices have grown faster than incomes: between 1997 and 2017 house prices rose 260% on average, while average income grew only 70%
- In 1968 the average UK house price was £3,600; in 2019 it was £229,000. If grocery prices had increased at the same rate as house prices, a four-pint carton of milk would cost £10.45 today and a chicken £51.18
- There has been a significant increase in the number of households composed of single adults and couples without children over the last 20 years
- Overall the stock of social housing has declined over 40 years by two million homes
- In 2018 the number of private completions was 164,000 compared with 200,000 in 1964
- Whereas the decline in social housing was fairly steady, private housebuilding rates have been more volatile, with substantial reductions following recessions in the late 1980s and 2008
- Over the past decade, an average of 175,000 social and private homes have been completed, substantially fewer than the average of 285,000 in the 1950s