A ‘Boris bounce’ for housing?
In our latest guest blog, Ipsos MORI’s research director Ben Marshall gives his thoughts on the survey results we published yesterday.
When Boris Johnson took office in July he wasted no time talking up Brexit and Britain while also promising investment in housing and other “vital infrastructure.”
In this he was treading a path trod by his predecessor Theresa May, for whom housing was a return-to issue, when Brexit allowed. It was one of her “burning injustices” and at Housing 2019 in Manchester she called on her (then unknown) successor to “…bring about the revolution we want and need to see.”
Most people in the UK agree. Our poll for CIH finds three-quarters think housing is in crisis, 60% disagreeing that the political parties pay a lot of attention to housing problems - five times the 12% who agree, and a significant increase on the equivalent 41% in 2014. A majority, 55%, think the issue of housing has been discussed too little in Britain over the last few years. And as many think that the rising cost of housing will impact on them personally in the next five years as think the same of Brexit.
Mrs May described a need to “maintain and build momentum” on housebuilding, echoing former housing minister Kit Malthouse (a Boris ally) and his mantra of “more, better, faster.” Happily, our poll for CIH found 45% support the government borrowing money to fund the building of more affordable housing for people to buy or rent, with just 24% against. And the survey provides further evidence of a swing in sentiment in favour of building more homes.
But while Mrs May could point to some successes – the 200,000 new homes delivered last year was the second-highest annual total in the last 30 years – we find people relying on their own lived experience. They are cool about the flats, apartments and penthouses they see being built (tall towers in London), ‘boxy’ homes elsewhere, all unaffordable (or at least perceived as such). While they think government can pull levers to fix things, they have little confidence it actually will.
Then there is the ‘rentquake’ (last year’s successor to the discredited ‘youthquake’). Private renters swung to Labour in 2017, reflecting perhaps Professor Matthew Goodwin’s suggestion that Corbynomics is more popular than people think. Our survey for CIH found people even more positive about building if it is social housing, and other research has found strong backing for an improved tenure mix and the extension of social housing. (Remember Mrs May’s description of social housing as a “victim of the drive for homeownership”?)
Of course these are very early days in Boris Johnson’s premiership, and actions, and the forthcoming comprehensive spending review, will count more than words. But the message from our research is clear; it may be your priority to sort Brexit, but don’t forget housing.