England’s homes are lowest quality yet among the most expensive in developed world

News at John Hoole | 05/10/2023

Homes in England are the lowest quality yet among the most expensive in the developed world, a study has found. 

The UK’s housing market is “reaching a state of crisis” as the country falls even further behind other developed nations in terms of condition, affordability, and age of its housing stock, according to a damning report by the Home Builders Federation (HBF), the representative body of the home building industry in England and Wales.

It found England’s homes are of poorer quality than those in eastern European nations such as Lithuania, with fewer new homes than Bulgaria. 

England is “the most difficult place to find a home in the developed world”, it said, while UK residents spend “exceptionally high proportions” of their post-tax income on housing.


The report found that on almost every metric, the UK compared poorly to the Organisation for Cooperation and Development (OECD) group of rich nations.

England is home to the largest number of people living in households that spend more than 40pc of their income on housing in Europe, at 11.3 million. 

This equates to 20pc of people living in households who are spending more than 40pc of their income on housing costs, the second highest proportion in Europe, and 12 percentage points more than the EU average of 8pc.

This proportion also rose by more than 50pc between 2014 and 2020 for the UK as a whole, while the same metric across the EU fell by over 3 percentage points – equivalent to a third lower.

England also has far fewer dwellings relative to its population than other developed nations, with 434 homes per thousand inhabitants, significantly fewer than France (590), Italy (587) and the OECD average of 487.

This dearth of properties makes England the most difficult place in the developed world to find a home, with the rate of available properties per member of the population at less than 1pc, the lowest rate of all OECD countries, the report said. 

It added 320,000 homes would need to be built every year until 2030 to bring the UK in line with that average.

This would require a record amount of housebuilding. The Conservative’s 2019 manifesto target was to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s but a report by MPs published over the summer said it is difficult to see how that will be achieved, with around 233,000 new homes supplied in 2021-22.

The HBF report also found that the UK has amongst the oldest housing in Europe, with 78pc of homes having been built before 1980, compared with an EU average of 61pc, and 38pc of the UK’s housing stock being built before 1946, compared with an EU average of 18pc.

The age of the UK’s housing stock has impacted on the quality of housing, according to the report, with 15pc of English homes failing to meet the Decent Homes Standard in 2020, the highest proportion of substandard homes in Europe.

The figure is significantly higher than many other countries including Germany (12pc), Bulgaria (11pc), Lithuania (11pc) and Poland (6pc).

Home ownership fell by seven percentage points to 65pc in the 17 years to 2021, while over the same period home ownership grew in many nations including Italy (up by 5.8 percentage points to 73.7pc), the Netherlands (up by 14.7 percentage points to 70.1pc) and Slovakia (up by two percentage points to 92.3pc).

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the HBF, said: “It is widely acknowledged that Britain’s housing is in crisis, but this research shows just how badly we are falling behind our international peers.

“Decades of housing undersupply has produced startling consequences for people up and down the country looking for a decent home.”

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities was approached for comment. 

John Hoole Estate Agents in Brighton and Hove