Britain set for worst decade of housebuilding since WW2

New CPS analysis shows 2010s will see fewest new houses built since Second World War

The Prime Minister has described solving the housing crisis as ‘the biggest domestic policy challenge of our generation’. Yet new Centre for Policy Studies research shows the full scale of that challenge.

With one year to go, the 2010s will see housebuilding figures in England come in below any decade since the Second World War – part of a 50-year pattern in which each decade has seen fewer new homes built than the last. Robert Colvile, Director of the CPS, has written about our findings in The Daily Telegraph today.

Despite the Government’s recent efforts to boost construction, new-build housing completions in England between 2010 and 2019 are set to be approximately 130,000 per year – well below the 147,000 of the 2000s or 150,000 of the 1990s, and half of the level in the 1960s and 1970s.

The picture becomes even worse when you factor in population size. In the 1960s, the new-build construction rate in England was roughly the equivalent of one home for every 14 people over the decade. In the 2010s, that ratio was one to 43, more than three times higher.

The figures are improved somewhat when you factor in conversions of existing properties, which push the total up – but even then, the total of net additional dwellings (the yardstick for overall housing supply) is likely to be lower this decade than last.

Across the United Kingdom as a whole, the pattern is broadly similar, with housebuilding falling from a peak of 3.6 million new units in the 1960s to 1.9 million in the 1990s and 2000s, with the 2010s set to come in lower still.

Robert Colvile, Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said:

“The housing crisis is blighting the lives of a generation, and robbing them of the dream of home ownership.

“But as this analysis shows, this is not just the consequence of the financial crisis – it is part of a pattern stretching back half a century, in which we have steadily built fewer and fewer new homes.

“The Government has rightly promised to focus on this issue, and there are encouraging signs that housebuilding is picking up. But ministers need to take bold action in 2019 to ensure that the 2020s become the decade in which we break this hugely damaging cycle.”



  • The Centre for Policy Studies is one of Britain’s leading think tanks, and the home of a new generation of conservative thinking. Its mission is to widen enterprise, ownership and prosperity
  • Between January 2010 and June 2018, housing completions in England stood at 1,089,190. To match the total in the 2000s during the remaining 18 months, we would need to build at 253,700 new houses per year – a rate not achieved since 1977. Assuming higher building rates from Q1 and Q2 2018 are maintained, total housing completions would be 1,324,540 – though this is likely to be an overestimate given reports of a construction slowdown in Q3 and Q4 2018
  • The same is true of both Great Britain and the United Kingdom. New-build construction between January 2010 and December 2017 stood at 1.19 million & 1.23 million respectively. To match the previous decade the statistics for 2018 & 2019 would need to be far higher than is feasible.
  • All figures for housing completions via MHCLG (Live Tables on Housebuilding). Figures for net additional supply via
  • Population estimates via ONS
  • For more of the CPS’s work on housing, see our recent reports including From Rent to Own, Homes for Everyone, New Blue and Housing: The Moment of Maximum Opportunity, as well as our polling with ComRes on NIMBYism

Date Added: Tuesday 1st January 2019