Kevan Carrick: Let's not repeat mistakes of the past 30 years

A couple of weeks ago my column focused on the crisis in housing and the need to build more houses more quickly – the tricky bit is how to go about doing that!

Kevan Carrick
Kevan Carrick

A couple of weeks ago my column focused on the crisis in housing and the need to build more houses more quickly – the tricky bit is how to go about doing that!

In the run up to next year’s General Election, housing will be a political hot potato.

Politicians of all persuasions and their Whitehall teams couldn’t do much better than reading a recent report from the Institute for Public Policy Research. Called Together at Home a New Strategy for Housing, it sets out a clear approach to the housing problem. You can download the full version from the IPPR web site www.ippr.org .

While I don’t agree with some minor details, it starts well by identifying that “too many people do not have a home that is decent, affordable and secure” and importantly acknowledges “the aspiration of many to own their home is unfulfilled, their ability to control their lives is restricted, and their desire to live in an integrated society is undermined.”

The authors criticise the political positioning of left and right and state that: “Both political traditions have neglected the social value of ownership, the sense of belonging and identity that it can bring, and its potential to support aspiration and security, mobility and roots.”

The housing sector has been beset by short-term and small-scale initiatives which have led us to where we are today, needing to build 240,000 new homes per year to meet housing demand and unable to do that.

The IPPR report suggests numerous ways in which the buying and renting and affordable and social housing can be provided with short, medium and long-term reforms. The recommendations are measured to encourage a cross section of stakeholders and potential investors.

A shake up of the development industry is called for. One idea is to let weaker house builders go into liquidation with the Government acting as a clearing house for the land banks, encouraging lower profit margins through public land programmes and urging local councils to release more public land for house building in return for equity stakes that secure public benefit.

Changes are also suggested for the planning system to enable more development. While many politicians seem to see the green belt as off limits, the report takes a pragmatic approach suggesting that low-grade green belt land (such as low-value agricultural land and land that has previously been developed) could be reclassified. It promotes local authorities charging higher planning fees in return for an expedited process, that councils should produce joined-up local plans with neighbouring authorities and the levying of a land value tax on all undeveloped developable land above £2m in value to encourage new building and raise funds for investment.

On a radical note, it suggests “a parallel strategic planning system to deliver a new wave of new towns” arguing that while the infill and densification of existing towns is important, it will not by itself be enough to deliver all the new homes the country needs.

While perhaps not on your summer holiday reading list, the IPPR report is thought-provoking and very much worth a look.

As far as housing is concerned, clearly we cannot go on as we have been for the last 30 years or so.

Kevan Carrick is a partner at JK Property Consultants LLP, policy spokesman for RICS North East, a member of the RICS Dispute Resolution Panel and chairman of Northern Dispute Resolution

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