Javid thinks forcing councils to accept more development will solve the housing crisis!

Owl says: we don’t need MORE high-cost housing in expensive areas where they desired and bought by those who can afford them – we need low-cost houses where they are needed by those who can’t currently afford to buy them.

Theresa May is being urged to face down a potential backlash from backbench Conservatives and sign off proposals aimed at forcing councils to unleash a building boom to tackle Britain’s housing crisis.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has confirmed to the Guardian that it will publish details by the end of this month of how local authorities should assess the need for housing.

The plans, part of a package of housing measures, will be closely watched as a test of the prime minister’s appetite for enacting controversial domestic reforms.

They were slated for publication in July, and a press release drafted, but the launch was delayed at the last minute amid concerns some MPs could face criticism from constituents concerned about over-development.

The communities secretary, Sajid Javid, who has the backing of reformers in the Conservative party, would like to see housebuilding boosted significantly, particularly in high-cost areas, to halt the rapid increase in property prices that is leaving many people unable to afford a home.

In the housing white paper published in February, entitled Fixing Our Broken Housing Market, the government said: “Some local authorities can duck potentially difficult decisions, because they are free to come up with their own methodology for calculating ‘objectively assessed need’. So, we are going to consult on a new standard methodology for calculating ‘objectively assessed need’, and encourage councils to plan on this basis.”

Javid hopes by adopting an expansive approach, which includes data about the local housing market, he can kickstart redevelopment in areas where prices are rising fastest.

May’s resolve to tackle the problem may have been strengthened by the party’s poor showing among young people at the general election in June. A recent YouGov poll suggested that just 4% of 18-24-year-olds trust the Conservatives to deal with the issue of housing – against 44% for Labour.

Number 10 policymakers have been taking soundings from thinktanks and policy experts about proposals that might help to win back young voters.

According to official figures, homeowners could expect to pay about 7.6 times their annual earnings to buy a house in England and Wales in 2016, up from 3.6 times earnings in 1997.

The housing need test is one of a package of measures radical Conservatives believe will be necessary to tackle the challenge.

The Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, in a speech focusing on housing policy in Scotland, said on Friday: “It is a bedrock of Conservative belief that we should encourage a property-owning democracy.

“Yet, increasingly, we now have something more akin to a property-owning oligarchy. Made up of lucky, mainly older, people who – by dint of having scaled the housing ladder – are now the ones who now control the country’s economic purse strings.”

George Freeman, chair of the Conservative policy forum, has also warned that young people risk rejecting capitalism if they have no chance of owning a home.

But Javid and and his allies are likely to find themselves pitched against Tory MPs and councillors wary of “planning blight”.

Andrew Mitchell, the former development secretary, publicly clashed with Javid over plans for a housing development in his Sutton Coldfield constituency.

May signalled on her trip to Japan that she wants to press ahead with domestic reform, as well as complete the Brexit negotiations.

She pointed to her Downing Street speech last year, in which she pledged to right, “burning injustices”, including the fact that “if you’re young, you’ll find it harder than ever before to own your own home”.

But watered-down corporate governance reforms published last week raised questions about whether May’s minority government will be willing to take on vested interests.

Housing campaigners urged the prime minister to be bold. Gill Payne, the executive director of public mpact at the National Housing Federation, said: “Getting this right will be a show of the strength of government’s commitment to building the homes the nation needs. Getting a consistent and accurate picture of housing need is really important – it cements into the local plan the number of homes that need to be delivered.”

She added: “Robust methodology will give a consistent and undisputable approach across the country.”

Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, said: “We hope these changes will help to simplify and join up the way councils across the country assess housing need in their areas, and it’s vital that the new proposals work to deliver as many affordable homes as possible.

She added that Javid should tighten up the planning regime, to allow local authorities to exert more control over what can be built, where, rather than relying on the market to deliver.

“It’s important to remember that developers can still often build whatever they like, regardless of whether it meets what the council says is needed or not. The government must now take action to change this, by giving councils more power to get housing built that will meet the needs of their community.”

Successive governments have sought to make property ownership more affordable. Ambitious building targets have rarely been met, and George Osborne’s focus on subsidising mortgages through the help-to-buy scheme was criticised for fuelling the boom.

Housebuilding slumped after the financial crash from more than 215,000 homes a year in 2007-8 to 133,000 in 2012-13. It has since recovered, but has not regained its pre-crisis level.”


One thought on “Javid thinks forcing councils to accept more development will solve the housing crisis!

  1. As usual the government hasn’t a clue as to:

    * What the real need is?
    * Why this need is not being met now?
    * What they should really do to solve it?
    * What the intended and unintended consequences of their actions will be?

    1a. What types of housing is needed? As Owl suggests, genuinely affordable housing is what is really needed, not more executive homes in expensive areas. This means ensuring that homes are built where people need them (not spread across the country without regard to local need).

    But this is actually only one issue with the housing market?

    Dodgy leases with exponential ground rent increases, piss-poor quality with no real recourse to homeowners to get things fixed, building estates on flood plains, allowing developers to reduce numbers of affordable houses by claiming poverty (when their profits grow by leaps and bounds every year), allowing developers to bribe councils to reduce affordable housing obligations, allowing housing growth in areas without matching growth in infrastructure (utilities, GPs, schools, dentists, road capacity, etc. etc. etc. These need fixing too.

    We also need to look at why housing needs are so focused on London and then SE, and not spread more evenly amongst the major cities? You might imagine that technology should have led to it being easier to work away from London, but instead the jobs continue to focus on London and the SE.

    2. There is no evidence that it is local councils that are preventing development – the evidence is that the big six developers have huge landbanks including a large backlog of land with approved planning permission, so it is difficult to see how forcing councils to approve more land is going to fix this?

    Surely the question should be “why” developers are land-banking and how to stop them from doing it in order to force them either to develop it themselves or sell it to other smaller developers who will build the approved homes.

    (Answer: By land banking and keeping the supply of houses limited, they keep property prices high and so improve their own profits.)

    3. Attempting to encourage developers to build more houses through subsidies has not worked. And any sensible person would recognise that all this does is add the subsidies to their already obscene profits.

    Instead, placing a punitive tax on approved sites which have not been developed might force them to build the houses or sell the land (and sell the land at a reasonable price). But it might have other consequences – like developers finding tax avoidance dodges – using options and getting outline permission which might fall outside such a tax.

    The one thing they should NOT do is to place the development of housing policy in the hands of developers like they did with the NPPF. Developers are only interested in increasing their own profits (see above re Keynesian economics) and any policy developed by them is going to focus on that and not on what is best for the population / country.

    Ultimately all the above can be generalised into two key points:

    a. The Conservative Government is not genuinely focused on providing what citizens really need – they are focused on retaining power and ensuring that the flow of donations to party coffers (by ultra-rich individuals and their corporations) continues uninterrupted (by having policies that benefit those individuals and corporations to the detriment of citizens).

    b. The Conservative Government is chronically incompetent at managing the country for the long-term benefit of its citizens.


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