The UK brick wars
When we think about the UK’s housing crisis, two root causes generally spring to mind: A government ideologically opposed to building new homes, instead working to drive up house prices far beyond the reach of most people; and private developers more focussed on building luxury homes for maximum profit rather than less valuable homes suitable for the masses.
What people often don’t consider is that the materials used to make the houses often run short. The best example of this is bricks.
The UK construction industry is currently having a row about a supposed “brick shortage” which threatens the next wave of mass construction. Obviously if this were true then it would represent a serious wall standing in the way of progress in the national housing crisis. The claim originates from a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research which says there is an “acute” shortage which would be worsened by Brexit as most of the raw clay for bricks comes from Europe. They alleged a 1.4bn brick shortage.
However the Brick Development Association, which accounts for 99% of brick manufacturers in the UK, hit back immediately, saying that it was a “lazy analysis”. The Office for National Statistics agrees, having recorded that sales of bricks are up 10.4% in the second quarter of 2016 and that stocks of ready-for-use bricks are 39.9% higher than this time last year. Considering that the UK produced 2bn bricks in 2015, a number 7% higher than the production level in 2014, that is a lot of bricks in reserve.
It looks like the Brick Development Association were right and the Centre for Economics and Business Research were wrong. We might have to go back to blaming a profit obsessed, political ideology for the housing crisis instead...