Statistics have been published to suggest that much of Britain’s housing crisis is down to a shortage of skilled labour and a shortage of bricks.
The Economist, using data supplied by property consultancy EC Harris, has calculated that to meet current demand, about 250,000 new homes are needed each year.
Yet last year only about 150,000 were built and ncreasing annual housebuilding even to 230,000 would require an extra 120,000 or so people in the industry.
However, the number of bricklayers and masons working in Britain has fallen from 100,000 to 70,000 since 2008 according to the Office for National Statistics, with other trade shortages in roofing, plastering, architecture and quantity surveying.
The Economist quotes the Home Builders Federation saying these shortages are the worst since 2002 - but at that time they were relieved by immigrant labour, mostly from eastern Europe. Census data show that the proportion of construction workers born outside Britain rose from five per cent in 2001 to 11 per cent in 2011.
The magazine also claims there is a shortage of materials in general and bricks in particular - some 20 per cent of which have to be imported to meet even current demand, let alone that of an expanded house building programme.