Few people disagree with the notion that there is a housing shortage in England. It is trotted out both as an argument for more social homes and as an underlying case for ever increasing house prices.
I too subscribe to the view that we need to increase and enhance the English, and indeed UK, housing stock.
But here is something that caught my eye when I was checking out some figures recently.
Consider this: according to the Survey of English Housing, in the period 1995 to 2007 the proportion of private owner-occupied homes deemed “under-occupied” rose from 39% to 47%. That means about 1.8 million more homes with two or more spare bedrooms.
That suggests crudely that the number of spare bedrooms in owner-occupied homes increased by around 4 million over that period even though the number of people in the country rose by 2.7 million.
Also consider this: house builders, social and private, in the period 1995 to 2007 created more than 400,000 new bedrooms in England each year, building almost 6 million in total. This ignores the creation of new bedrooms through conversions.
Put another way, the stats seem to be saying that we built two bedrooms for every new person in England.
So what exactly do we mean by housing shortage?
The argument is, of course, not as simple as matching the population to bedrooms. Households are more complex than in the past and they move about.
But here is an intriguing little graph I put together to juxtapose two trends.
I wanted to see what link there might be between income and the number of spare bedrooms.
A correlation of 0.984 it would seem.
Mind you, there’s a pretty similar, although very slightly weaker, correlation if you track the increase in homeworkers against the number of homes with two spare bedrooms.