Bricks equivalent to 5,800 Conwy Castles needed to fix UK housing crisis

The UK has a 1.4 billion brick deficit enough to build Conwy Castle 5,830 times over according to research compiled by the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

The National Association for Estate Agents (NAEA) says that’s also equivalent to 740 Big Bens, 40 Tower Bridges, 3,090 Manchester Town Halls or all of the houses in Leicestershire.

The research, which was commissioned by the NAEA, also says Brexit will already make things worse, as last year 85% of all imported clay and cement (primary brick components) came from the EU, meaning the cost will be driven up further by the weak pound, even before any trade negotiations begin.

Over the past 100 years, the size of the average UK home has shrunk significantly. In the 1920s the average dwelling was 153 square metres and almost 100 years later, in 2016, the average home is approximately half the size at 83 square metres – meaning homes have shrunk by 46% in the last century. The research puts this down to families generally being smaller, so require less space – however the decrease can also be explained by financial restrictions. As house prices have risen astronomically – 45% over the past ten years – house buyers have been forced to settle for smaller properties.

Over the last ten years, the average UK home has shrunk by 9%, or 228 bricks. In 2006, the average UK home was 91 square metres in size and required a total of 5,408 bricks 10 years later, as the size of homes have reduced, the average new home requires 5,180 bricks – but there still are not enough to meet demand to fill the housing deficit.

Mark Hayward, Managing Director of the NAEA said: “We all know that the massive lack of supply in housing is an issue that needs resolving urgently. As well as freeing up more land to ensure we can build the right sort of houses in the right places, it’s crucial we have the right materials and skills to do so. It seems a simple consideration but the fact that we don’t have enough bricks to meet demand has a very real effect and holds up the process from beginning to end. We’re concerned that the impact of the EU Referendum means this problem could get worse as we rely on the import of brick components from the EU and of course many of our skilled labourers come from there too.”

“The UK housing market is in crisis, with young buyers unable to get on the ladder, and families continuing to live in houses they’ve out-grown for longer than traditionally they would have had to. Houses may be getting smaller but we are needing to build more of them than ever so ultimately our needs for bricks is greater than before.   We need investment in the sector to boost production, and housebuilding needs an image overhaul, to become a more attractive career prospect for school leavers and graduates.

“Until this is addressed, we might as well resign ourselves to a life time of astronomical prices and falling levels of home-ownership.”

Alongside the shortage of bricks, the NAEA say a skills shortage in the UK has also restricted housebuilding as construction based jobs are decreasing in popularity. This is a result of housebuilding slowing down during the recession, prompting workers to find alternative careers, and many choosing not to return when the market recovered. The recent vote to leave the EU may impose greater restrictions on foreign workers coming into the UK, which could also compromise the UK’s ability to build homes. Additionally, fewer young people are obtaining the training necessary to fill roles in the field so trade bodies are now calling for government incentives to make construction apprenticeships more attractive.

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