As always the nation waits with bated breath as to what Mr Osborne is going to pull from his red suitcase of tricks, founder and CEO of eMoov.co.uk, Russell Quirk, highlights what George Osborne needs to do, to tackle Britain’s burning issue of housing.
“Despite making a number of promises back in March, little progress has been made to address Britain’s housing crisis, although granted it has been just eight months.
It would appear the use of brownfield land is the primary approach of this government in tackling Britain’s housing issue, however this simply won’t cut it.
For a start the boundaries of what is green and what is brown need to be re-visited. I’m not advocating the use of green belt land for housing development, however there is wealth of ‘not so green belt’ land that should really be re-classified.
What’s more the mass of publicly owned land and the vast number of publicly owned buildings that sit vacant on it, could be utilised as part of the solution to the housing crisis. There are over 180,000 publicly owned land and building assets across the UK which certainly won’t fix the problem, but will provide a realistic starting point.
Whilst using old knackered prisons is a start, it’s just tokenism really. There are just 185 former and functioning prisons in the UK, that’s equates to less than 1% of the 180,000 assets available for re-development and, that’s providing the government were to convert all of them. But of course, some will remain as intended and, I doubt all of the former sites will be used, as I can’t see them converting the Tower of London into housing any time soon. This said if they were to, it would be far from an affordable development, so would do little to address the shortage of affordable housing anyway.
On top of all this, there is of course the issue of the developers themselves. I’ve been saying this for a long time and will continue to do so. We must make the proposition of development more attractive, by offering tax break incentives to the developers themselves in order to stop them land banking.
I suggest this should also apply to corporations and high net worth individuals. We should incentivise them to invest in social housing schemes, which in return provide them with tax breaks for doing so, instead of relying on developers who are allocating an ever dwindling amount of their inventory to affordable status. We need entrepreneurial, innovative means to build more social rent and shared ownership homes, given that there is currently 1.7m people now on the council housing waiting list.
We can line up all of the brownfield or green belt land we wish, but without someone to convert it into the houses we so badly need, it’s all just a waste of time really.”