In recent months, senior politicians of every hue have referred to UK developers and investors as part of the problem rather than a element of the solution when it comes to house prices, shortages and affordability.
This is a foolish view and ignores the international situation.
During the second quarter of this year, house prices rose in 28 countries and declined in 11, according to a recently published survey. Europe, North America and some parts of Asia have all seen property prices rise. The greatest declines were in the United Arab Emirates (Dubai), Russia and Ukraine.
The survey covers the changes in prices from the end of the second quarter in 2014 to the same period this year. The highest rate of increase globally was in Hong Kong, where property prices surged by 16.43%, a sharp turnaround from a drop of 0.66% for the same period in 2014.
UK politicians increasingly point to the danger of houses being seen as an asset class rather than a place to live. However, this is not a perceived issue that is unique to the UK. A study released last year by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) details the extent of the issue on a worldwide basis.
MGI finds a considerable global housing affordability gap, defined as the difference between the cost of a city’s acceptable standard housing and what households can afford to pay for it using no more than 30% of their income. The report pegs this gap at $650bn (£430bn) per year - a full 1% of global GDP - and suggests this gap represents both a problem and an opportunity. Most of the new investment required to close the gap, between $9 trillion and $11 trillion, could come from private investment.
In the UK, developers and investors are presented as the villains in this tragedy, but they could well be the saviours. MGI notes that housing faces a huge financing gap and that this gap is greatest in the places with the most severe housing shortages.
The report outlines three main ways to close this finance gap: leveraging collective savings to reduce rates; cutting the costs involved in funding mortgages; and reducing the cost of obtaining a loan in the first place. Perhaps our political masters may start viewing property investors as part of the answer.
Richard Steer is chairman of Gleeds Worldwide