We have a new government in place – and quite by chance, a major review of housing has just been published by the House of Lords Select Committee of Economic Affairs on ‘Building more Homes’.
It is an interesting read.
The report is highly critical of Government Policy over the past years and concludes that it has had a detrimental effect on housing and housing supply.
Building more homes – the report
So what does it say? Basically many of the things that Ben and I have been banging on about for years:
For example, that insufficient houses have been built over a prolonged period – due largely to the fact that Local Authorities are no longer able to do so.
The private market (it goes on to say) cannot be expected to fill the gap – and indeed it is not in its interests to do so. Therefore, rules should be changed to allow Local Authorities to borrow and start building again in a big way.
53 … Government cannot rely on the private sector alone to build the homes the country needs. The gap between what can realistically be expected and what is needed is simply too large. …
56 Local authorities and housing associations need to make a much bigger contribution to housebuilding if it is to reach required levels.
The report also claims Government has paid too much attention to encouraging owner occupation and not enough to rented property – which houses around 1/3 of the population. Plus, constant government intervention, has had a negative effect:
61. Government must recognise the effect that constant changes in public policy have on the housing market; housebuilders, housing associations and local authorities are unlikely to commit to large building programmes amid such uncertainty.
- Lifting restraints on Local Authority borrowing to allow them to build
- Penalising (eg by charging Council Tax on) developments which are not completed quickly
- Building low-cost housing on surplus government held land – and putting responsibility for implementing this into the hands of a ‘senior cabinet minister’.
- Improving the planning system and also increasing planning fees which should then be ringfenced for the development of planning departments.
All of these would hopefully result in building more homes.
A few things occur to me:
First – do we have sufficient skilled workers?
If we are going to build the 300,000 houses per year that we need, that will take a lot of builders. I suspect there will turn out to be a serious undersupply.
However, I suppose that if properties are being built by Local Authorities they could combine this with training schemes for young people and the unemployed.
Second – do we have sufficient building materials?
I remember reading a few months back that there is a general shortage of bricks.
One way to deal with this would be to use building techniques which do not use many bricks. Pre-fabricated houses have come a long way from the pre fabs on the 1950s and (if the Grand Designs programs I have watched are anything to go by) can be pretty good. There is also straw which creates nice well-insulated homes.
Third – what about the right to buy?
It’s not much incentive to Local Authorities to build if the properties are then going to be sold off at an undervalue.
Wales has recently announced that they are ditching right to buy. Ideally, England should do this too. However, this may be a step too far for a Conservative Government.
What happens next?
We now have a completely new government headed by a woman who has indicated that she wishes to make a clean break from the previous administration.
I would urge her to follow the advice given by this House of Lords report, so hopefully, we can start to make inroads into our housing crisis.
This is one way she can help those working class families she spoke to in her inaugural speech.
A You Tube video was released at the same time as the report which you can watch below.
You can read the select committee Building More Homes report here.