Population, Migration and Housing Demand – a Confused Picture based on Estimates and Out of Date Data

Do we really need so many houses in South East England? Or perhaps more? Or perhaps fewer?

Governments have at least to try to plan ahead – and all parties currently support a national housebuilding target of 300,000 to 340,000 to cope with the expected population increase.

The current interim 2020 estimates predict births and deaths will be in balance in 2025. From then on further increases will be due only to continued net immigration. However this was 606,000 in 2022. Note this figure now includes asylum seekers (statistically estimated to be roughly 77,000) and returning British (88,000).

But, might not the death rate actually start to exceed the birth rate – possibly due to Covid deaths, Long Covid morbidity or reduced fertility?

Could the net immigration drop below the estimated steady 600,000 per year? Please note that of course this does not imply we need this number of extra homes per year – it could be as low as 300,00 depending on household size. This is broadly compatible with the consensus of a UK target of 300 – 340,00 extra homes per year.

About 40% of the non-EU immigrants (2022) come here for study related purposes – about 360,000 – and the majority of these return home after completing their period of study. If fewer young people come here to study and if a greater proportion return after finishing their studies, this could be a significant effect.

Could the accustomed year on year population increase therefore, for all these reasons, start to slow down or even stop?

So could the housebuilding targets now be excessive and could we now be under government pressure to sacrifice the Green Belt – and otherwise green field sites – unnecessarily?

Might we end up with unsold houses on agricultural land that might become more important in the future?