Housing in England: overview - NAO report

A reasonably useful overview but the focus is blurred - it seems to be on house-building whilst other aspects of the report discuss net additions, which include conversions and demolitions. Neither of the latter are given any attention.  "Net additions" is the government target so a discussion of policies and data around conversions etc might reasonably have been included.

This is not an evaluation of government policies but simply an overview, as the title indicates. Perhaps more detailed evaluations are in the pipeline.  However, as an overview, it does contain much useful high-level information about housing.

It does expose how timid the current target of an extra 1 million homes is between April 2015 and December 2020 - it can be achieved quite easily, requiring a rate of net additions that is lower than 2015-16 and lower than the five-year period up to 2009.

As regards empties, the report notes:

Vacant, under-occupied, and second homes
1.4 Two per cent of dwellings in England are either vacant in the long term or used as second homes. Long-term vacancy is highest in the North East and North West,  where rates are double those in London and the South East. Seven of the 10 authorities with the highest rates of long-term vacant dwellings in 2015 are in the North West. However, since 2008, the number of long-term vacant dwellings has fallen by 38%. The government has addressed under-occupation of homes through initiatives such as the Empty Homes Programme.

There is no specific mention of the government's relaxation in Permitted Development Rights that have encouraged conversions. Yet the report notes:

There were 189,650 net additions to the housing stock in 2015-16; this included 164,000 newly-built properties.

If we factor in demolitions, then perhaps as many as 30,000 of the net additions must have come from conversions (including simple changes of use). (189,650 -164,000 = 25,650; plus demolitions that would have reduced the total of 189,650).  This seems too important a contribution to simply ignore. Similarly, the Empty Homes Programme receives a mention but not the New Homes Bonus for empty homes or council tax changes.


Document type: 


Thanks you very much for commentary on the your website about our recent report.

As your author suggest the report is indeed intended to pave the way for a series of reports dealing with specific aspects of government housing policy. Work on a report on homelessness is underway. We will review the list of topics after the publication of the housing White Paper.

I take the points your author made about lack of attention given to conversions about part of increases in dwelling stock and I will keep that in mind for possible work about increasing housing supply.

You may also  be interested to know that we created an interactive data visualisation to provide access to the evidence on which the report is based . the second part of the visualisation includes some information about long term vacant properties. It allows you to compare the level of empty properties to the balance between supply and demand and other indicators of how the dwelling stock is being used.

The visualisation is designed so that it can be embedded in your ‘external’ web pages. Click on the Share button under the window that contains information about long term vacant dwellings to access embed code you need to add to your own page.

Thanks again for your interest.

Mark Burkett | Senior Analyst