‘I know we need to build more houses, but just not in my back yard, please’. This is what most people think about new homes being built near them, right? Well, no actually, not any more. New data from the British Social Attitudes survey a few weeks ago showed that the majority of the public now support homes being built near them, and this level of support has doubled over four years – a seismic shift in public opinion.
Here at Shelter, we have just finished a piece of work of our own on how people feel and act on housing developments near them – Addressing Our Housing Shortage: Engaging the Silent Majority. This is based on a huge weighted sample of over 20,000 members of the public, so it enables us to confidently draw out differences between different parts of the population.
Key things the research found include:
A ‘Silent Majority’ (69%) of people support or are neutral on homes being built in their local area, only 11% strongly oppose.
Opponents do not outnumber supporters in any major sub-group analysed – not even among Daily Mail readers, or retired people – the average Briton doesn’t oppose homes being built near them anymore.
But, and it is a huge but, opponents are far more vocal – someone who says they oppose local housebuilding is three times more likely to be active in their opposition than supporters are (23% compared to 7%). In fact supporters of local housebuilding are almost as likely to have actively opposed local development (5%) than they are to have supported it (7%) – this is shown on the chart below.
To some extent, this is inevitable – the emotions stirred up in people not wanting houses built near them will naturally be stronger than for those that do. Let’s be honest, you are not very likely to hear anyone saying ‘I really, really want those houses built near me’, not outside of Shelter towers anyhow.
But the research shows that there are many ways that people can be shifted to a more supportive position, and it also shows which things will work best with which people. For middle aged and older people it is the possible impact on roads and local services that stops them being more supportive. Younger people are more concerned by environmental impacts. The types of people most opposed to local building are more likely than others to consider the look and design quality of the new homes to be the most important thing. Not many people want to be personally involved in the design plans, they don’t have the time, but for a small and very vocal minority, this is a great way of getting them onside.
This isn’t research that will sit waiting to be read. Our partners on the project – Meeting Place Communications (MPC) work directly with some of the country’s biggest housebuilders, and they will be using it on the ground to communicate with the public and help get the homes we so desperately need, built.
As well as this practical application, the research gives politicians the green light for the bolder action needed to get us up to the levels of housebuilding required. So, what are we waiting for?