Brickonomics

Figuring out trends in housing, construction and property


England’s housing stock grows slower than the population for the first time in decades

Brian Green

The release today of the latest population estimates for 2010 revealed a reversal in the long-standing trend in England that the housing stock increases proportionately faster than the population.

For more than a century the ratio of the number of people in England to the number of dwellings has, give or take a few blips and the effects of the World Wars, shrunk.

The trend, from the best data I can find at the moment, was reversed in the decade before the 1921 census, which is to be expected with the First World War. The 1941 census was not taken, so it’s harder to judge what happened in detail over the period 1931 to 1951.

But basically for more than a century household sizes have strunk and been allowed to do so, with the rate of increase in the housing stock outpacing population growth.

What’s more, in the last 50 years of the 20th Century we added more than one new dwelling to England’s housing stock for every additional person in the population.

Some of the older data might be a bit iffy, but the figures I have show that in 1901 there were about 4.9 people per dwelling, in 1931 there were about 4.2 people in England for each dwelling, in 1961 there were about 2.8 and in 1991 there were about 2.45 people in England for every dwelling.

From here the pace of change has slowed, but the number of people per home continued to drop.  And despite cries of housing shortages the number dropped below 2.3 people per home in 2008.

Well the latest data shows the after a fractional fall in 2009 in the ratio, in 2010 the number of people per homes grew to above 2.3.

Here’s a graph that makes it a bit easier to see the long-term trend.

But these falls in the number of people per home were not just related to the drop in the number of children. If we look at adults 20 years and over, we see a similar, but less extreme, pattern.

The number of adults aged 20 years or more for each home has fallen greatly over the decades and has also continued to fall in recent years, although here the trend reversed in 2009.

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