No place like home

  • Research
  • 16 May 2024

Housing is more than just a roof over our heads – important though that is. Home is where we unwind, a place that we make our own, where we raise families and make memories.

However, for many in Britain today, housing is more a source of stress and insecurity than stability. For much of the public, our housing model seems broken. Rents are increasing faster than incomes can keep up, and the prospect of buying a home has become further and further out of reach for a larger group of younger Britons.

The insecure, scarce and unaffordable housing that so many experience is not only holding the country and economy back – it’s damaging our cohesion too. With short-term tenancies, communities become more transient, fewer people put roots down in their local area. And without that sense of attachment, activities like volunteering, participating in civic life or even forming relationships with neighbours become less appealing. Intergenerational fairness also takes a hit when young people feel that the opportunity to own their own home afforded to previous generations is not being given to them.

However, much of the debate around housing seems to conclude that the public are the problem – that Britain is a nation of NIMBYs (not-in-my-back-yard) who have no one to blame but themselves. And it is left to a group of enlightened YIMBY (yes-in-my-back-yard) outriders to make the case for housing.

The polling and focus group research conducted for this report finds a more nuanced picture. It shows how public support (and sometimes indifference) can be leveraged and opposition more effectively managed to put spades in the ground, cranes in the air, and get Britain building again.

Key findings

Most Britons are neither NIMBY nor YIMBY

In contrast to a political and media debate that sees housebuilding through either NIMBY or YIMBY lens, half the public (50 per cent) say their view on any development would depend on the merits of the proposal – a view that unites all seven segments. Less than a fifth of the public have anti-housebuilding instincts, and pro-building instincts are not widely popular either – only a quarter of people would support housebuilding regardless of its impact.

NIMBY is not a term that the public are familiar with and very few people talk about NIMBY in focus group conversations. And only 36% of the public think that people who oppose housebuilding genuinely represent the interests and views of local people.

Many Britons feel that existing residents lose out from housebuilding

They see development as a sacrifice, rather than a benefit. The fact that houses are built anyway, without allaying locals’ concerns, makes people feel ignored. Housebuilding which is done with people, not to them is likely to be one which can drive support for more houses being built.

In focus groups, Britons share their frustrations about how new homes and developments would pop up in their area, without the subsequent infrastructure upgrades or improvements to public services to support a growing population. While many are sympathetic in principle to the need for more housebuilding – including in their local area – they are put off by the lack of answers to practical questions about how local schools or GPs will cope with increased demand on their services or roads withstand the extra traffic.

Houses are being built, but they're not providing more GPs, they're not providing more schools. The roads can't take it. The roads are getting busier because new houses are being built in.

Serena, Civic Pragmatist, Milton Keynes

There is only one school there and they're trying to build more houses around that area and the school itself is oversubscribed, the doctors are oversubscribed. So it's not just about putting people in a house, it's them being able to provide local amenities to just even the basics of an education and being able to access a doctor.

Luke, Loyal National, Darlington

The public are not convinced that building more homes would help

Britons are worried that more construction would simply lead to more expensive houses being built. If new housing is not cheaper than what is already on offer, then there is no point building it. In other words, their perception is that supply of housing has little-to-no impact on the price.

Across the country – in conversations from Darlington to Milton Keynes to Cambridge – people raise the issue of new homes being too expensive, costing more than many of our participants could afford. The argument that the overall levels of supply will help reduce house prices for everyone doesn't cut through. People are also sceptical about developers trying to make a “quick buck” rather than solving the problem of housing supply.

Yeah, I think it's brilliant if people can afford it. But if people can't, you're just building more houses, taking up more room, that could have been put there to help people that actually need it.

Kyra, Established Liberal, South Cambridgeshire

I feel like there are a lot of houses being built, but I don't think that's the issue. I think it's people being able to afford what's being built. I think all developers are trying to obviously make that bang for their buck.

Jacob, Disengaged Traditionalist, Milton Keynes

To mitigate opposition, link housebuilding to regeneration and Levelling Up

The primary benefits of housebuilding are centred on its contribution to the local economy. The most convincing argument is that new developments have the potential to regenerate run-down areas and bring in more jobs. The more that housing can be tied to the levelling up agenda more broadly, the more popular it will be. Helping young people get onto the housing ladder only ranks third on this list. Although the vast majority of the public sympathise with renters and those struggling to get onto the housing ladder, most people still want to personally benefit from development.


Housing affordability is an issue that affects the vast majority of people in Britain, either directly or indirectly through the experiences of friends and family. Everyone has their own story of struggling with housing.

Although many Britons agree that housing is unaffordable, and getting worse, few have a clear diagnosis of the problem or a concrete set of solutions in mind. This leaves some space for campaigners to help define the issue and shape the narrative around how to solve it. The following principles provide some guidance for building support.


  1. Assuage people’s concerns. The public raise real (and valid) concerns about losing green space and overwhelming the capacity of local public services. If new developments do not come with a tangible plan to mitigate the downsides of building, other arguments risk falling on deaf ears.
  2. Understand incentives. People are primarily motivated by their own and their community’s material interests, so policymakers and campaigners should look for creative ways to turn existing residents into winners. If development can put money in people’s pockets, much of the scepticism would melt away.
  3. Talk about smarter planning rules, not looser. People tend to think that the rules are there for a reason, such as protecting them from rogue developers. This ties into the public’s general distrust of private sector housebuilders.
  4. Build on the ‘grey belt.’ Shifting focus from the Green Belt to the grey belt can simultaneously protect what people feel is important while delivering the new homes the country needs.
  5. Link housebuilding to regeneration and levelling up. The most popular developments are those that ‘level up’ the area and visibly benefit the community. People want to see where they live improving, whether that be high-quality jobs, new amenities, or greater social connection.
  6. Do not rely on supply as the answer to affordability. The economic case for boosting supply may be clear, but the public are not on the same page as YIMBY campaigners. People do not believe that building more homes will help stop price inflation, and sometimes they think it makes housing even less affordable.
  7. Promises count for nothing without results. People are frustrated about what they see as the Government’s lack of action on housebuilding and this applies just as much to Labour as to the Conservatives. To regain trust, policymakers need to prove that they have a credible plan and, most important of all, to demonstrate delivery.


There’s no place like home, but Britain does not build enough of them. We will only start delivering the homes the country needs when politicians stop listening to the vocal NIMBY minority and instead address the priorities of the majority of Britons. People want housing developments to genuinely improve their community and quality of life, which is why housebuilding should be tied into a broader agenda of levelling up and regeneration.

Jim Blagden, More in Common