We face a housing crisis. The level of owner occupation is falling — from a peak of 69% down to 64% today. Many under-35s in whole swathes of the country simply cannot afford to buy their own home. This is a social as well as an economic tragedy.
Residential development — previously a powerhouse of economic growth — is on the floor. Government figures show that, in the decade leading up to 2007, an average of 141,000 private units were started each year. Since the credit crunch, this has dropped to a measly 71,000. Residential housebuilding has halved.
Shortly before 9:30 last Thursday morning, the mood at the Treasury was tense. Grim-faced civil servants and their political masters waited nervously for the latest figures on the economy to be released by the Office for National Statistics.