Will Cameron's Starter Homes Solve The Housing Crisis?

The 2015 General Election was the election when housing came to the fore. In the run up to election and in the months following, it became increasingly clear that Britain is in the grip of a housing crisis  - a shortage of new homes being built, a growing lack of affordable housing, and a ‘Generation Rent’ seemingly priced out of owning their own home.


David Cameron and his Conservative Party promised to make housing a priority and the recent policy announcement that 200,000 new starter homes will be built suggests, at first glance, that they are making good on this promise.


But are starter homes really the key to solving the housing crisis?


Too good to be true?


While building any new homes is to be welcomed, Cameron’s promised 200,000 starter homes actually falls short of the estimated 240,000 homes that experts say need to be built each year in England alone.


What’s more, the scheme looks likely to reduce the number of affordable rental properties that are on the market. Currently, developers are obliged to build affordable rental properties as part of any new development – under the new scheme they will be able to satisfy this obligation by offering starter homes to purchase. So rather than alleviating the housing crisis, this new policy could actually serve to make things worse.


Perhaps what’s most surprising is that these ‘affordable’ starter homes are anything but affordable for the majority of first time buyers. With the properties costing up to £450,000 in London and up to £250,000 elsewhere in the country, housing charity Shelter has calculated that only people earning over £50,000 a year will be able to afford the new homes.


The upshot is, that for many young people, owning their own home is still a distant dream. And, priced out of the market, many are returning to Mum & Dad’s until they can afford a home of their own.


If you are looking for a way to help out your children, adding extra space to your home or even building on your land could be the answer.


Convert space


A loft conversion is one of the easiest ways of adding extra rooms to your property.  If your loft is large enough, you could create a self-contained flat for your son or daughter, complete with bedroom, shower room, kitchenette and living area. You don’t usually require planning permission, and the majority of work can be carried out from outside, meaning minimal disruption.


And don’t forget your garage. Instead of being used to store endless boxes of junk, it could be turned into a nice studio apartment. Again, unless you are enlarging the garage or changing its structure, you will probably not need planning permission.


An added bonus of this approach is that it can add significant value to your home – up to 12.5% for a loft conversion and up to 10% for a garage conversion – for relatively little cost and effort.


Extend your home


If conversion is not an option for you then extending your property could help you get the extra space that you need. A ground floor extension could add a room or two, while a two storey extension could almost double the size of your property. If you have a very large property, you could even look at giving up some of the house to add to a loft or extension, which will essentially create a semi-detached property.


Don’t forget to give the extension its own entrance, so that it feels separate from the rest of your house, and your son or daughter has a sense of privacy.


Use your land


If you are lucky enough to have plenty of land, one option could be to build or convert an out-building to provide your child with a completely separate living space which includes a living area, bathroom, bedroom and kitchen.


When your son or daughter is eventually ready to move on, the building doesn’t need to go to waste. The rise of accommodation websites such, as AirBnB, mean that you could make money from your investment by renting out the space to holidaymakers and travellers – particularly if you live in a popular tourist area.


There is no magic bullet for the housing crisis and it seems unlikely that it will be solved anytime soon. By making good use of the space available to you, you may be able to create an affordable living space for your son and daughter. As well as giving them the space to start saving for a deposit, the changes you make can also add value to your home, making it a sound investment for the longer term. 


Matt Bott is the director of Essex Rooms. He specialises in extending and converting homes to add space and value, to build a brighter future for his customers.