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Housing supply requirements: low-income households & homeless people

There is an urgent need for more housing that provides people on low incomes with security, decent living conditions and affordable rents. Across Great Britain the need and demand for low-rent housing outstrips supply. This report presents the findings of a study, carried out by Professor Glen Bramley of Heriot-Watt University for Crisis and the National Housing Federation, to estimate the scale of current and future housing need and associated housing requirements. Unlike previous studies there is a specific focus on low-income households and people experiencing homelessness.

Key findings

  • There is currently a backlog of housing need of 4.75 million households across Great Britain (4 million in England). Around 3.66 million households are in housing need and are currently concealed and overcrowded household, those with serious affordability or physical health problems and people living in unsuitable accommodation. In addition, around 333,000 households experiencing core and wider homelessness are in housing need. Another 250,000 older households with suitability needs are part of the backlog and finally 510,000 households are included because they live in poverty after paying their housing costs.
  • The analysis works on the assumption that the large backlog of need cannot be met instantaneously and it will take time to build up a really effective housebuilding programme to address these existing needs plus expected future needs and demands. There the projected levels of supply have been calculated on a 15 year time frame.
  • Over 15 years the research has estimated the total level of new housebuilding required is around 340,000 per year for England, 26,000 per year for Scotland, and 14,000 per year for Wales (380,000 for GB). These figures include new social housebuilding per year of 90,000 for England, 5,500 for Scotland and 4,000 for Wales (100,000 across GB), with additional provision per year of 25,000 shared ownership (or equivalent LCHO) for England, 2,500 in Scotland and 30,000 for intermediate affordable rent (30,000 and 33,000 across GB).
  • These estimates are derived from employing three partially distinct methodologies: two based on a traditional demographic framework enhanced to reflect affordability, and the other based on a dynamic sub-regional housing market model and consideration of a wide range of key outcome measures, relating to affordability, poverty, housing need and homelessness.
  • The emphasis of the study has been on housing requirements and needs, with limited consideration of resources issues and some aspects of feasibility. However, the study has demonstrated that suggested regional targets are consistent with a reasonable interpretation of evidence on land capacity. Other factors which may affect the achievability of these targets depend on levels of subsidy available as well as policies relating to tenure mix
  • The report provides an assessment of the scale of housing requirements at national level for Wales and Scotland, and at national and regional level for England. In sum, the findings suggest that England requires more ambitious targets across the board, that Wales would benefit from more investment in affordable housing and its recently enhanced targets are not unreasonable. For Scotland, there are more nuanced findings, suggesting that care should be exercised about the total housing volume target in view of issues of low demand and housing surplus in some areas, and that the balance of the affordable supply programme should probably be shifted somewhat from social renting to intermediate tenures.


Bramley, G. (2018) Housing supply requirements across Great Britain: for low-income households and homeless people. London: Crisis and National Housing Federation