Housing: now is the time to seize the opportunity

1 Feb 2017

- Unless radical action is taken now, the Government will not achieve its target to build one million new homes by 2020.

- This could have severe electoral consequences. Housing is an increasingly salient political issue. According to Ipsos Mori, voters now consider housing to be one of the five most important issues facing Britain today, ahead of education, poverty, defence and foreign affairs, and crime.

- Public opinion on new housing development has also changed dramatically in the last few years. In 2010, the British Social Attitudes Survey found that 46% of respondents said they would oppose any new homes being built in their local area. In 2014, this opposition had fallen to just 21%.

- The importance of housing to the electorate reflects the fact that there are simply not enough places for people to live in. With house prices continuing to rise far faster than wages, the need for new housing has never been greater.

- The social and economic consequences of worsening affordability are considerable: the divide between those who inherit wealth and those who don’t will become more pronounced, and UK productivity will continue to stagnate as high house prices tie up significant sums in unproductive assets.

- The current system conspires to make it not in the interest of any individual stakeholder to take on this challenge. It is a dysfunctional market.

- It is therefore hardly any surprise that no new towns have been built in this country since Milton Keynes back in the 1970s. Planning restrictions, fragmented land ownership lack of institutional capital funding and the tax treatment of new development – local authorities have been the big losers on the provision of social and physical infrastructure for new developments – have combined to stifle new initiatives.

- A programme of reform, inspired by a grand vision and as bold as that outlined in the 1979 ‘Right to Buy’ White Paper, is needed now. 

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