Charts: Which regions of England are building most affordable housing?

How do we get this thing moving again, then? Image: Getty.

This morning Conservative journalists Tim Montgomerie and Stephan Shakespeare launched The Good Right, a sort of website think tank thingamy intended to reboot the notion of compassionate conservativism in Britain. To give a sense of what that means in practice, the site includes a draft manifesto of 12 possible policies. What do you think they placed in the top slot?


A Harold Macmillan-sized, state-supported housebuilding programme to cut the future cost of housing benefits and to rebuild the idea of a property owning democracy again

See that? Not just housebuilding, but public housebuilding. Regular readers may also recall the article by Conservative councillor Richard Holloway last week, calling for a return to council house building. When Tories start calling for the state to start building homes, you know that the ground is starting to shift.

It needs to shift quite a long way before anything starts to change, however. Most analysts reckon the UK needs to build around 250,000 homes a year to keep pace with demand. In 2013, the number of houses completed was just shy of 110,000; the number started was 123,000.

In other words, however you look at it, in 2013, the UK was building less than half the homes that it needs.

Things actually get slightly worse when you look specifically at affordable housing. This is a faintly Orwellian term meaning "subsidised", rather than actually affordable; but it acts as a good proxy for the rate at which the British state itself is currently building homes

According to figures compiled by the National Housing Federation, England needs to build roughly 78,500 affordable homes a year to keep up with demand. In the year to 30 September 2014, it built only 24,110. That, for those keeping score, is just shy of 31 per cent of the total need.

Demand for such homes, though, is not spread evenly across the country. You won't be surprised to learn that a third of it is in London alone:

Take the two regions that provide the capital’s hinterland, too (the various shades of blue on this chart), and it's nearly 60 per cent.

London is also leading the field when it comes to the numbers actually getting built. (We've coloured this chart green, as if to say "Go housing, woo!".)

That’s not much of a surprise, since so much of the demand is in that part of the country. When you look at the affordable homes built as a share of the number needed, however, London's position looks rather less flattering.

On this chart, the total length of the bar is how many affordable homes a region needs to build each year; the green section is how many it actually managed to build.

Looked at proportionally, and only one region is actually performing worse: Yorkshire is building just 13 per cent of the affordable homes it needs, so well done there.

Just one of the nine regions of England is building more than half of the affordable homes that it needs. Only three are building more than a third. The debate may be moving – as of yet, however, the JCBs aren't.

The government will publish figures covering the whole of 2014 later this week. Let’s hope they bring good news.


CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

City Monitor is now live in beta at

CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is now a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission is to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

Please visit going forward, where you can also sign up for our free email newsletter.

As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our new digs. You can follow City Monitor on LinkedIn and on Twitter. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

To our readers, on behalf of the City Monitor team, thank you from all of us for being such loyal CityMetric fans. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.