Panellists on Radio 4's Any Questions? and Charles Moore in this week's Spectator magazine agree (with lots of others, it seems) that there is a housing shortage in the UK and the only question is how to satisfy it. I beg to differ, or at least think we can question the assumption.
1. "According to The Empty Homes Agency, there are an estimated 870,000 empty homes in the UK and enough empty commercial property to create 420,000 new homes", according to the BBC website section on Homes.
2. There are over 245,000 registered second homes in the UK, according to Schofields home insurers.
3. The 2001 census showed that average home occupation in England and Wales had declined from 10 years before, from 2.51 to 2.36 persons.
4. According to the official Housing Survey of 2008/9, 7.7 million households were couples with no dependent children; there were also 6.2 million single person households (up from 3.8 million in 1981).
5. The same survey showed that the average (mean) dwelling had 2.8 bedrooms, rising to 3.0 bedrooms for owner-occupiers. Fewer than 3% of households were defined as overcrowded.
6. According to a 2005 Home Office study, there were 310,000 - 570,000 illegal immigrants in the UK, a figure which MigrationWatch thought to be underestimated by 15,000 - 85,000. This is a separate issue from the 8.7% of the population who are economic migrants to the UK, and whose real net contribution to the economy (after taking into account all benefits to which they and their dependants may be entitled) is a matter of debate.
We are not in the situation we faced in 1945, when soldiers returning home from war squatted on military sites and even caves. The modern "housing shortage" is an arbitrary notion.