Today the Government laid out further plans to help address the growing housing crisis in Britain.
Amongst the policies put forward were
- A new Life Time ISA to help first-time buyers.
- A clamp down on developers selling the lease rights to their properties.
- A reduction in the time required between the granting of planning permission and construction from two to three years.
- A move to stop developers building in low-density areas and therefore providing more homes with each development
- An insurance that the Green Belt would remain safe.
- That the Government would address downsizing in an attempt to free up larger properties for those that need them.
eMoov CEO, Russell Quirk, believes that today amounted to little other than recycled stats and rhetoric from previous announcements and that the Government need to grow up about building on Green Belt land in particular.
As always, commendable that the Government should look to again address the housing crisis, but there is an all too familiar theme of ‘close but no cigar’ where today’s announcements are concerned and a real lack of ambition. Although this paper will be cautiously welcomed, much of what Mr Javid announced today was nothing but recycle rhetoric and statistics from previous announcements, and as always, the Devil will be in the doing.
Rather than make any real steps towards a solution, today’s changes seem to only trim the fat from a system that is fundamentally broken.
Life Time ISA
The Life Time ISA is a positive step, but the Government’s various Help to Buy schemes, regardless of what guise they come under, have had an insufficient impact in helping first-time buyers historically. So, there is no real expectation that this will be any different as it is essentially a regurgitated version of previous schemes.
The stubborn stance on green belt is disappointing, there are swathes of land that are classed as green belt that should not be labelled as such, which could go a long way in addressing the shortage of land needed to build.
We must be more grown up about building on green belt and we are only talking about 1% of it, but it would seem the Government are more concerned about going to war with middle-England than they are with addressing the housing crisis.
All too often knee-jerk councillors are scared of lobbying NIMBYs and bow to their demands, stopping attempts to build housing at the planning committee level, in fear that their career will slide if they don’t. The reality is that we need to build on about 9% of the nation and therefore someone will have their nose put out of place by a new development down the road from them. But the consequence of not doing so is that our children and their children will have nowhere to live and we won’t have a housing crisis on our hands, but a social crisis.
Kicking pensioners out of their homes with the offer of some marginal compensation will be of cold comfort to them. Downsizing may seem like a nice concept on the face of it but it really is just that, a concept, and one that has not been considered properly in terms of what it actually involved, which is essentially kicking people out of the homes they have worked hard for.
Developers and Building
The reduction in time between planning permission and the start of building is such a small aspect of the problem that it will barely make a dent to the overall outcome.
The move to encourage developers away from low-density areas, whilst helping to fund smaller firms to challenge the big players in the space may incite more competition and more extensive housing projects, but we need these developers to be encouraged to actually build in the first place. Something they currently aren’t doing due to a lack of incentives.
In fact, all we have really seen from developers of late is the disgraceful backhanded tactics of selling off leases behind the backs of homeowners. This is a practice fuelled by greed to maximise the profit made by these developers at the expense of the homeowner, under the guise of addressing the housing crisis whilst they’re in fact fuelling it. Rather than potentially increase the number of them building, these developers need to be first brought to account for their actions.
Again, the promise of stamping this out is a commendable one, but one that is unlikely to come to fruition.Russell Quirk