October 23, 2020

Councils already six years behind brand new new house building targets

Councils have fallen more than six years behind their own house-building targets spelling disaster for Britain’s bid to end the housing crisis, new research by modular smart homes provider Project Etopia reveals today (Monday 5 November).

Development across the country is moving at such a glacial pace, local authorities are on average 6.2 years1 behind the rate of building needed to hit targets identified as part of the government’s 10-year plan ending in 2026.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government jointly set out annual housing targets with local authorities up to 2026 and published these in September 20171. However, building in 316 locations identified by the study is set to fall short of housing need by 889,803 homes over the decade. Some of these areas (75) are keeping pace with housing requirements but just one year in, 241 locations are already in deficit, leaving them 9.2 years behind target on average.

If those councils not building fast enough do not speed up, they will miss their targets to the tune of 1,013,312 homes by 2026. Of the 10 councils which have fallen the furthest behind, it would take until between 2042 and 2060 for all the homes required by 2026 to be built.

Figures show Southend-on-Sea is by far the worst town or city outside London for meeting its targets, and is set to be 8,405 homes short of what it needs by the end of 2026 — if it does not speed up, it will take 34 more years to build that amount of housing stock.

York and Luton are the only other towns and cities that are more than 20 years behind — and all 10 councils with the biggest deficits are two decades off the pace on average.

The Project Etopia study found even councils with fewer homes to build, such as Gosport, Hants, which only needs to build 238 a year, have been struggling to meet their own targets. Gosport is 17 years behind.

Top Ten Towns & Cities Falling Behind House-building Targets

COUNCIL Annual Housing target


Annual building rate* 2026 Housing Deficit How many years behind?
Southend-on-Sea 1,114 250.6 8,405 33.5
York 1,070 302 7,604 25.2
Luton 1,417 430 9502 22.1
Oxford 746 249.4 4895.4 19.6


692 241.6 4285.6 17.7
Gosport 238 83 1,472 17.7
Worthing 865 319 5,436 17.1
Braintree 835 316 5,211 16.5
Guilford 789 290 4,777 16.5
Sevenoaks 698 263 4,285 16.3

Councils have for years been prevented from building new housing stock themselves, leaving them at the mercy of developers whose building can be hampered by economic and planning constraints.

However, the Prime Minister announced at the Conservative Party Conference that the borrowing cap would be lifted to encourage local authorities to commission new developments.

Preston, Lancs, was ahead of housing need by the biggest margin, with Scarborough, North Yorks, and Burnley, Lancs, close behind.

Top Ten Towns & Cities Ahead of House-building Targets

COUNCIL Annual Housing target


Annual building rate* 2026 Housing Surplus How many years ahead?
Preston 225 412.8 2269.2 5.5
Scarborough 162 326.4 1774.6 5.4
Burnley 70 120.4 584.6 4.9
Carlisle 211 373.6 1793.4 4.8
Middlesbrough 267 445.8 1878.2 4.2
Cambridge 583 911.8 3554.2 3.9
Doncaster 585 794.6 2350.4 3.0
Stafford 424 532 1558 2.9
Stratford-on-Avon 588 736.6 1968.4 2.7
Wakefield 1,033 1241.8 2662.2 2.1

In London, the situation is even worse. Redbridge is in the worst shape in the country — 82.5 years behind its housing need.

Boroughs are 19.2 years behind on average and those that are in deficit lag their house building targets by 21.4 years. Come 2026, London boroughs are on target to have a shortfall of 429,973 homes. [see notes to editors for full London table]

Joseph Daniels, CEO of Project Etopia, commented: “It is alarming to see so many areas so far behind already. If the pace is not rapidly picked up, we will be in an even deeper black hole in 10 years’ time than we are in now.

“Housing need is plain for all to see but not enough is being done about it. There is an air of complacency — everyone knows we need to build more houses and fast, but not enough decisive action is being taken to ease the crisis.

“Fresh ideas are vitally needed, and the most innovative and forward-thinking councils will have to include modern modular housing in their armoury. They can be built quickly, more economically, and still provide the standard of living people expect when they move into a new-build.

“The deficit is only going to grow unless councils think outside the box, and look for faster ways to build homes but retain quality — and modular housing offers this.”

Sources: Data for net houses built in each local authority from Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government   https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-net-supply-of-housing

Housing need targets from Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-right-homes-in-the-right-places-consultation-proposals

*Annual building rate is net number of homes provided each year over on average over the past five years, up to 2016/17.

*Overall calculations based on full dataset. Tables based on analysis of towns and cities excluding London.