Housing Horizons: New analysis shows true scale of how UK housing is falling behind international counterparts

5 Oct, 2023

Housing Horizons: New analysis shows true scale of how UK housing is falling behind international counterparts

Scarcity of available properties and barriers to building is driving UK housing further into crisis, new analysis from the Home Builders Federation shows

  • Existing English homes are in the worst condition of all European countries, with 15% failing required quality standards – significantly worse than poorer Eastern European nations
  • Skyrocketing housing costs mean 11.3 million people in England spend more than 40% on their household income on their home - more than any other country in Europe
  • England has a dearth of housing, with the lowest rates of available properties compared to its population of all OECD members

Homes in England are less affordable and in worse condition than those in most other developed nations, a new report today shows.

Analysis from the Home Builders Federation – the representative body of the home building industry in England and Wales – reveals for the first time the full extent of the difficulties facing people in Britain trying to find somewhere to live that is decent and affordable.

Using data collated from the OECD, the European Union, and the UK Government, today’s report finds that:

  • England’s severe shortage of housing has made it the most difficult place in the developed world to find a home, with the lowest rate of available properties per member of the population of all OECD nations
  • England has the highest proportion of inadequate housing in Europe, with 15% of all existing homes not meeting the Decent Homes Standard and more substandard homes than Hungary, Poland and Lithuania
  • The UK has some of the oldest housing stock in the developed world with only 7% of British homes built after 2001, far less than other countries like Spain, with 18.5%, and Portugal, with 16%

Boosting home ownership has been a key ambition for politicians, yet HBF’s research shows this is becoming increasingly unachievable for many as house prices continue to outstrip incomes.

Today’s report finds the UK has fallen behind our competitors on affordability, condition, and housing age.

Between 2004 and 2021 the UK’s rate of home ownership fell by six percentage points from 71% to 65%. Over the same period, levels of home ownership grew by nearly 10 percentage points in France and by 15 percentage points in the Netherlands.

Despite manifesto commitments and repeated promises to boost numbers, the policy environment has slowed the delivery of new homes.

The UK remains a long way off delivering the Government’s target of 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s, with only 233,000 new homes completed in 2021-22 and delivery in the first half of 2023 down by 10%.

Analysis shows that record-breaking house building of 320,000 homes per year – nearly 100,000 more than current delivery – would be required for England to provide homes for its population in line with the benchmark for developed nations worldwide, the OECD.

Even just to reach the number of homes per thousand inhabitants of small European nations would require a significant increase in delivery. England would need to build 291,000 new homes every year until 2030 to reach the level of homes enjoyed by Belgium and 390,000 homes per year to be comparable to Denmark.

At a time when we desperately need to be building more homes, the impact of the faltering economy on people’s ability to buy and an increasingly anti-development approach to housing policy are resulting in supply falling sharply. Planning consents, a strong indicator of what will be built in the coming years, fell by 19% during the first six months of 2023 as compared to the same period last year.


The average price of a property in England and Wales is more than eight times the average salary, making these staggeringly unaffordable places to live.

The data also shows that 10 million people are paying more than 40% of their income on housing - the second largest number in Europe. This equates to 15.1% of the UK population which is almost 5 percentage points higher than the EU average of 10.3%.

Even when looking at countries with similar reputations for unaffordable housing, the UK compares poorly, the analysis finds.

Too old

The UK has some of the oldest housing stock in the developed world. Even despite historically high levels of housebuilding over the past decade, only 7% of British homes were built after 2001, far less than other countries like Spain, with 18.5%, and Portugal, with 16%.

Even countries with smaller economies in Eastern Europe perform better than the UK. Hungary, for example, has one of the lowest average annual incomes in Europe and a GDP 17 times smaller than the UK, yet Hungarian houses are much more modern than British ones.

Half of Hungarian homes were built after 1971, compared to only a third of the UK’s housing stock.

Poor condition

Unsurprisingly perhaps given the older housing stock, homes in England are also of much poorer condition than in other developed countries.

As of 2020, England had the highest proportion of inadequate housing in Europe, with 15% of all homes not meeting the Decent Homes Standard, a measure set by the Government which requires homes to be in a reasonable state of repair with reasonably modern facilities and services.

This means homes in England are in much worse condition than in Eastern European nations, including Lithuania, where 11% of homes are substandard, and Poland, where only 6% do not reach the required standard.

Stewart Basely, Executive Chairman of the Home Builders Federation said:

“It is widely acknowledged that Britain’s housing is in crisis, but this research shows just how badly we are falling behind our international peers.

“Decades of housing undersupply has produced startling consequences for people up and down the country looking for a decent home.

“Home builders want to be able to deliver new, high quality, energy efficient homes which will help solve our country’s housing crisis, and they expanded investment over the past decade. Sadly, developers are still too often hampered by a restrictive planning system, an anti-development mindset and short-term politics trumping the needs of communities

“The country is in dire need of more high quality and energy efficient new homes. With an election looming and manifestos being considered, today’s research should act as a wake-up call, demonstrating the urgent need to act now to prevent us falling even further behind.”

Notes to Editors

For further information, please contact Alice Fitzgerald on HBF@lexcomm.co.uk or 07498 395391.

Note: The data was revised on 19 October 2023 in line with new data sets becoming available.

About the HBF

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) is the principal representative body for private sector home builders and voice of the home building industry in England and Wales. HBF member firms account for some 80% of all new homes built in England and Wales in any one year, and include companies of all sizes, ranging from widely recognised national firms, through regionally based businesses and small local companies: hbf.co.uk.

Consumer attitudes towards housing

The HBF has also carried out recent research into consumer attitudes towards housing the nation, finding:

  • 78% of respondents agree there is a housing crisis in the UK
  • To tackle the crisis, 68% of respondents agree building more homes is vital
  • 80% of respondents are supportive or not averse to new homes being built in their local area
  • 71% of respondents feel the housing crisis is making the country less equal and more divided
  • 72% of respondents believe responsibility for solving the housing crisis sits most heavily with Government
  • Only 55% think that solving the housing crisis is actually a priority for politicians
  • 72% of respondents were worried about the prospects of future generations in relation to the housing market
  • Just 18% of people think politicians truly understand the challenges young people face in getting on the housing ladder
  • More than 40% of respondents agree with the statement ‘Housing will be an important factor in determining who I vote for at the next General Election'

Further risk to housing supply

Earlier this year HBF published its ‘Planning for Economic Failure’ report, warning that supply could halve and fall to the lowest level since World War Two if the current challenges facing the industry remain unaddressed.

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