Fatcat developers created our housing crisis. Here’s how to stop them

Housebuilders, armed with foreign cash and backed by top lobbyists, keep property prices high. But author Bob Colenutt has brilliantly exposed the grip they have on Britain [introductory paras with link to full review of the book]

Oliver Wainwright www.theguardian.com 

If you want to see who influences the government, you can do worse than look at Whitehall’s neighbours. In a grand Victorian building opposite the House of Commons in Parliament Square stands the headquarters of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. With a history dating back to 1792, the RICS is an illustrious professional body, promoting the highest international standards in the valuation and development of land and property. But it has another side.

Its royal charter states that it exists to serve the public interest, yet most of its members’ fees come from landowners and developers, not the public sector. Through its Red Book, the RICS sets the standards by which land and property are valued, but it is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the development industry, representing the interests of landowners and developers at the highest levels of government. It directly advised on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012, which led to 1,300 pages of policy being reduced to 65 in a triumphant bonfire of red tape, and it has numerous committees influencing policy on all aspects of land planning and valuation. It describes part of its mission as “unlocking the inherent value held within the world’s physical assets”, but the question is, for whom is the value being unlocked? And who, consequently, is missing out?

In the eyes of Bob Colenutt, the answer is clear. In his urgent new book, The Property Lobby, he identifies the RICS as one of numerous actors in a complex network of landowners, housebuilders, financial backers, professional bodies and politicians who are engaged in propping up the status quo to ensure that their interests prosper – at the expense of everyone else. The housing crisis is no accident, he argues, but the calculated product of an elite group who have no reason to fix it.

 Many books have attempted to explain the roots of Britain’s housing crisis, but Colenutt is better placed than most to unpick the mess. His career in community planning and local government regeneration has taken him from campaigning in Southwark, south London (helping to lay the foundations for the community-led Coin Street housing project on the South Bank) to battling the development of Docklands and working for various London councils, before moving into academia. In 1975, he co-authored The Property Machine, a book whose message was nicely summed up by its cover illustration of a fat-cat developer gobbling up people’s homes. Then, the big developers were office builders, backed by insurance companies and pension funds. Now, they are housebuilders, armed with an unimaginable arsenal of global capital. Many of the themes remain the same, but, in the intervening years, through successive takeovers, intensive political lobbying and close integration with the finance sector, the leading developers have swollen into an unstoppable force………..

Full article here:

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/apr/30/fatcat-developers-created-our-housing-crisis-heres-how-to-stop-them?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

  • The Property Lobby: The Hidden Reality Behind the Housing Crisis by Bob Colenutt, is published by Policy Press.