UK - Demand for UK residential property could top 750,000 units, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a UK think tank.

A report published as part of the institute's review of UK housing policy presented three macro scenarios and analysed their likely impact on housing.     

Even a weak economy will lead to demand for more than 200,000 additional residential units. If demand continues at the rate it has over the past three decades, the UK will be short of 750,000 houses within 15 years, the report's authors concluded.

The greatest demand will be for social housing, with weak economic performance potentially pricing 1.2m households out of the private sector.   Even a best-case economic scenario will see demand for social housing from 550,000 households.

The largest supply and demand imbalances will be in London, the South East, East of England and Yorkshire and Humberside, according to the report. London alone faces a gap of 151,000 units.

Against this shortfall - and with 4.5m people on the waiting list for social housing - the current government last year cut the housing budget from £8.4bn (€9.7bn) over three years to £4.4bn over four years. 

With questions over how the almost certain increase in demand will be met, the UK residential sector remained too fragmented to attract significant involvement from pension funds.

Moreover, the government last September ruled out introducing incentives for institutional investment in residential property, claiming pension funds would remain "niche" participants in the sector.

The £10.4bn Greater Manchester pension fund, one of the UK's largest local authority schemes, last year considered investing in residential via its Greater Manchester Property Venture Fund.

However, Damian Masters, development director at GVA Grimley, which manages the property fund, said the scheme would instead continue to concentrate on commercial development.

"If there were an appropriate residential model, we would look at it, but we haven't seen one so far," he said. "Commercial investments tend to be larger, and the client needs a clear exit strategy. Holding onto residential assets is not something they're geared up to do."

IPPR senior research fellow Andy Hull said that even with institutional investor participation, the UK needed a fundamental review of housing policy.

"With not much money knocking around and planning restrictions on new developments, it's not clear how demand will be met," he said.