The latest research conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies finds that 64% of British respondents agree the UK is currently experiencing a housing shortage, a position with which only 13% disagree. There are no major differences in responses to this question on the basis of age group or political persuasion: a majority across the board seems to agree that people who are looking for a place to live struggle to do so.
One potential solution to the housing shortage that has been suggested is the easing of rules on building houses on the green belts of cities (particularly London) so that more affordable housing can be built in these areas. When we asked respondents if they are aware of what the green belt of a city is, we found that 66% say they know what the “green belt” of a city is, whereas 34% say they don’t know. Interestingly, there is a clear age pattern in the responses to this question, with only 37% of those aged 18 to 24 saying they know what a green belt is, compared to 83% of those aged 65 or older.
Among those who say they know what a green belt is, 89% say they approve of their existence around British cities, whereas only 2% disapprove. The age tilt we saw previously also manifests itself in this question, but less prominently: 69% of those aged 18 to 24 who are aware of what a ‘green belt’ is are supportive of them existing, compared to 94% of those aged 65 or older.
Furthermore, among those who are aware of what a green belt is, 79% say the rules on building houses in green belts should remain strict in order to protect the environment, even if it is at the expense of building more affordable houses in British cities. On the other hand, only 15% say the rules on building houses in green belts should be relaxed so that more affordable houses can be built in British cities, even if this is at the expense of the environment.
There is a clear age difference in responses to this question, indicating a generational divide on the matter: among respondents aged 18 to 24 who know what a green belt is, 57% think the rules on building houses in green belts should remain strict, whereas 41% think they should be relaxed in order to build more affordable housing. The figures are similar among those aged 25 to 34 and those aged 35 to 44.
On the whole, responses to our questions indicate that building on the green belt is an issue that has so far mainly attracted the attention of those who are most likely to oppose it (i.e. older respondents), rather than those who might be more supportive (i.e. younger respondents). Consequently, the current situation in public opinion is that proposing building on the green belt would be politically unwise given the high levels of opposition to such a policy. Instead, policies that increasing density in cities, such as re-designing or making available existing real estate space, restricting foreign home ownership, or allowing for the development of brownfield sites would be better to prioritse.