Only a quarter of voters believe housing gets a lot of attention from political parties

With housing targets seemingly never met, building more homes should be high on the list of priorities for the next government, according to voters.

Related topics:  Property,  Housing,  House Building
Property | Reporter
24th June 2024
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"British voters have high expectations from a new government on housing. The overarching response is ‘build more homes, but other things matter too’"
- Richard Donnell - Zoopla

New research from Zoopla and Ipsos investigated voters' housing priorities for an incoming government and found that a clear majority believe the government should place a greater emphasis on housing, with just a quarter of voters agreeing with the statement that ‘the political parties pay a lot of attention to housing’.

Affordable housing should be the government's top priority

According to the research, 50% of voters disagree with the statement that ‘there isn’t much governments can do to encourage the building of new homes’. 21% strongly disagree, demonstrating a belief that governments can make a positive difference in rates of home-building.

The main political party manifestos continue to target 300,000 or more homes a year in England. This level hasn’t been reached for over 40 years, but the numbers have been increasing. In 2023, home building (measured by net additions to supply) fell 65,000 homes short of the 300,000 mark.

Public opinion remains divided

41% support the idea that increased government borrowing should be used to fund this. However, just 26% are willing to see taxes rise to pay for this, raising the question of how and who should support the funding of future home building at a time when the costs of building have been rising but house prices have stalled.

What should be the other key housing priorities?

Voters also care about homelessness and rough sleeping which ranked as the second priority for the next Government, chosen by 41%. This was followed by 39% who selected a reduction in the number of empty homes.

The highest priority for the rental market is managing the pace of rental growth in the private sector which was chosen by 33%. This was followed by giving renters in the private rented sector more rights, for example in relation to evictions and rent rises (selected by 21%).

The political parties are all aligned on the need for a new Government to deliver rental reforms but measures to manage or control rental inflation are not proposed in England as there is a risk this reduces new investment in homes. Rental inflation for new lets is slowing (currently standing at +6.6%) and on track to fall below the pace of earnings growth in 2024.

Support for first-time buyers featured joint fourth in the list of priorities at 33%, despite this group being the focus of several housing pledges by political parties. First-time buyers struggle with the deposit levels to buy a home, often relying on the bank of Mum and Dad for assistance. Even with support for a deposit, the household income to buy for FTBs currently averages £60,600.

Top-ranked housing priorities for people

Different housing priorities for homeowners and renters

Building more affordable homes was the top-ranked priority for the incoming government for homeowners (those buying on a mortgage or owning outright) and social renters, followed by tackling homelessness and rough sleeping.

Increasing housing benefits for low-income renters ranked in third place for social renters. Housing benefit levels have been reset for 2024/25 but the availability of homes for rent for those on low incomes remains a challenge and requires an increase in home building for social homes and private housing.

Meanwhile, for private renters, the number one focus for the next Government should be controlling the pace of rent rises, followed by building more homes and increasing the rights and protections for renters.

Top 3 priorities by tenure

  Homeowners Social renters Private renters
1 Build more affordable homes Build more affordable homes Control rises in rents in the private sector
2 Tackling homelessness and rough sleeping Tackling homelessness and rough sleeping Build more affordable homes
3 Helping first-time buyers get on the property ladder Increase housing benefit for low-income renters Give renters in the private sector more rights 

Richard Donnell, Executive Director at Zoopla, comments: “British voters have high expectations from a new government on housing. The overarching response is ‘build more homes, but other things matter too’.

“People’s experiences and priorities vary based on their position in the market. Renters want more focus on their priorities including raising housing benefit levels and managing the pace of rental growth, while also improving rights and protections.

"Rent reforms are on the agenda for all parties but managing rental inflation is best achieved by growing supply through new home building as measures to control rents can reduce new investment.

“It is clear voters are well aware of the pressures on the housing market with reducing homelessness and rough sleeping and doing more to reduce empty and under-utilised homes in the top 3 priorities.

“Building more homes has the potential to start addressing many of the priorities identified in our survey with Ipsos. We have been getting closer to the 300,000 homes a year level but breaking through will require need a big political push to deliver the homes the nation needs across all housing tenures.”

Ben Marshall, Research Director at Ipsos added: “Our survey with Zoopla provides the public’s perspective on the next government’s housing in-tray and how full it is!

"Expanding Britain’s housing supply is among top priorities, as is more efficient use of existing stock and tackling homelessness. This is driven by deeply-held worries – most people think finding a home to settle down in has become harder (something the Prime Minister recognised earlier in the election campaign) and that we are not keeping up with meeting the country’s housing needs.

"But the survey also finds a sense that the governments can affect change and facilitate an increase in the supply of new homes.”

 

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