Searching for a new homes solution
PUBLISHED: 15:05 01 July 2017 | UPDATED: 15:05 01 July 2017
© 2016 John Watt
We were going to have “strong and stable” government, but call an election when voters decide to vent their frustration and disenchantment with establishment politicians, and you can end up with confusion and uncertainty.
Uncertainty in politics is never a good thing. The conflicting scenario of the FTSE100 rallying while the pound crashed post Brexit illustrates the ability to predict what will happen in turbulent times is close to impossible.
So what does it mean for builders, developers, the housing market and house buyers? Well, both major parties agreed on a need for more housing. The Conservative manifesto pledged to build “a million new homes by 2020 with a further 500,000 by the end of 2022” whilst Jeremy promised us “a million new homes in five years with at least half a million council homes”. Unfortunately, there was a lack of detail on how they would deliver these very modest targets.
Kate Barker’s well respected 2004 report on housing said we needed 245,000 new homes a year to keep house price inflation down to 1.1 percent. Today that would seem like a conservative estimate.
Significant changes have begun in the last couple of years and we have some new market entrants in the form of local authorities who are setting themselves up as developers while housing associations are now building for the open market as well as being providers of social/affordable housing.
National Housebuilders has identified major problems to increasing the numbers. It cites planning, lack of availability of land, labour and funding. I believe a major problem is the pressure to create very large sites in the name of “sustainability”.
Some voices claim that developers sit on land, waiting for prices to go up. They don’t. Having worked on acquiring plots on a site for around 2,000 new homes, I found it had taken more than seven years and cost over a million pounds to get planning. It will take more than 20 years to sell all the homes on that site.
If we had more smaller developments, built quickly, it would have limited disruption on communities and provide a significant dent in the numbers required in a much more immediate way.
We can deliver that by asking every parish and town council in the country to identify several locations for five to 50 units in their patch and put them forward for a consent lasting just two years. A few extra houses will not adversely affect anyone’s quality of life but may make the local shop, pub, school and local businesses viable. It will deliver new homes where they are wanted and quickly too. Plus it gives a chance for local builders employing local people to sustain the local economy.