Demographia has produced benchmark data on housing affordability since 2004, linking median house prices and household income data. Now in its thirteenth year, the annual report allows comparisons to be made between different housing markets. Along with other studies, it concludes that housing supply restrictions are directly connected to prices. In short: supply and demand.
The survey currently covers 406 metropolitan housing areas in nine countries: the UK, Australia, Canada, China (Hong Kong), Ireland, New Zealand, the US; plus Japan and Singapore which were added in 2013. Requests from other nations to expand the coverage is encouraged, and we may soon see the addition of mainland China and India.
Markets are categorised as ‘affordable’, ‘moderately unaffordable’, ‘seriously unaffordable’ and ‘severely unaffordable’. Although the characteristics of different housing types and sizes are not shown in the data, the report does point out that housing in the UK and Hong Kong, particularly new housing, is ‘abnormally small by New World standards’.
Most Affordable Housing Markets (and selection criteria used)
All eleven of the ‘affordable’ markets reported are in the US, followed by:
- US (housing markets over 75k population)
- Japan (urban areas over 75k population)
- Canada (markets over 75k population)
- UK (urban areas over 150k population and London ‘Exurbs’)
- Singapore (Singapore)
- Australia (urban areas over 50k population and Pilbara)
- New Zealand (urban areas over 75k population)
- Hong Kong (Hong Kong)
All the major markets of Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong are ‘severely unaffordable’.
Least Affordable UK Housing Markets
No areas of the UK were found to be ‘affordable’. Of the 21 UK major markets, seven were ‘severely unaffordable’. The most affordable UK market was Leeds and West Yorkshire (with median household income of £37,900).
The least affordable was Bournemouth and Dorset (with median household income of £29,900) which ranked tenth worldwide, with only the likes of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Hong Kong less affordable.
||UK Major Housing Markets|
|Affordable||None in UK|
|Moderately Unaffordable||1. Leeds and West Yorkshire|
|1. Blackpool and Lancashire|
|2. Derby and Derbyshire|
|3. Middlesborough and Durham|
|4. Hull and Humber|
|5. Newcastle and Tyneside|
|6. Manchester and Greater Manchester|
|7. Birmingham and West Midlands|
|8. Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire|
|9. Leicester and Leicestershire|
|10. Liverpool and Merseyside|
|11. Warrington and Cheshire|
|12. Bristol and Bath|
|Severely Unaffordable||1. East and South East England (London Exurbs)|
|2. Nottingham and Nottinghamshire|
|3. Sheffield and South Yorkshire|
|5. Plymouth and Devon|
|7. Bournemouth and Dorset|
The Town and Country Planning Act (1947) details urban containment restrictions which have been used as a model worldwide. These controls in land use were increased in the 1990s and early 2000s. The report shows concludes that unaffordability in the housing market reflects this restrictive policy. Where housing markets have been competently managed by releasing land, the cost of living was lower and housing costs less expensive, allowing the households a more affluent lifestyle. Causing land to be ‘artificially scarce by regulation’ had largely been the cause of higher prices.
Oliver Hartwich of The New Zealand Initiative wrote in his introduction to the Survey: “We should not accept extreme price levels in our housing markets. High house prices are not a sign of city’s success but a sign of failure to deliver the housing that its citizens need.”