Opinion
2 Mar 2017 10:00am

Debate: is the government doing enough to combat the housing crisis?

With home ownership increasingly out of reach for millions, in this month's debate we ask: is enough being done to tackle Britain's housing crisis?

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Caption: The housing crisis is the one of the biggest challenges facing Britain today.

Paul Dossett, head of local government, Grant Thornton UK

“The government’s commitment to improving the quality and scale of the private rented sector is welcome and the recent initiatives to increase the speed of development are steps in the right direction. If implemented swiftly and effectively, these measures will help to improve supply and go some way to address the overwhelming demand in the south-east.

But that demand is rising inexorably and is unlikely to abate. The aim in the Industrial Strategy to rebalance the economy and build on the strength of all of the UK’s cities, not just those in the south-east, is no quick fix and will take decades. The Housing White Paper acknowledged the market is broken and identified the need for more diversity and competition in house building. The expansion of the £3bn home building fund will provide smaller developers with a much-needed boost and may go some way to tackling regional disparities.

“Despite clear steps to combat the crisis there are still two areas overlooked. Government must not forget the urgent need for affordable rented and shared-ownership accommodation and should empower local authorities to build more.

The financial logic is undeniable. Borrowing costs are at an all-time low, many councils are cash rich but revenue poor, the rent cap is making housing associations unsustainable in the longer term and homelessness budgets in the south-east are out of control. The government must be ruthless about guaranteeing that social housing targets are reached within their overall targets.”

Mike Cherry, national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)

“It’s encouraging to see the government recognising the crucial role that small housebuilders can play in helping to solve the housing crisis. The Housing White Paper detailed plans to provide more financial support for small and medium-sized housebuilders. I would hope these steps will start to make it easier for smaller housebuilders to compete against larger developers.

“The £1bn short-term loans scheme, first announced in October 2016, is a much-needed boost for small housebuilders and should create or safeguard thousands of new jobs. In addition, government announced plans to work with the British Business Bank, which should help to get more lenders to invest in small housebuilders.

“But we’re very disappointed by the government’s announcement to delay Community Infrastructure Levy reform until the Autumn Budget. The FSB believes the current levy fails to address the higher costs of building small developments.

“There is potential that the use-it-or-lose-it measure could force developers to start building before they are ready. This could create a costly rush and thereby another barrier to entry into the market for small firms. We have also noted plans to allow local authorities to increase nationally set planning fees by up to 40%. Care should be taken to review this cost hike and make sure it does not put off smaller house builders.”

Russell Quirk, founder & CEO, eMoov

“We’re not close to addressing the housing crisis and the plight of aspirational buyers, with attempts amounting to empty rhetoric.

“The flogging of the Help to Buy dead horse has been inadequate in helping first-time buyers in particular. But the government continues to repackage it as getting buyers on the ladder. The issue is a lack of stock, something I have been shouting about for ages. We must build more and failure to do so is what’s driving this crisis.

“We need to be more adult about building on the green belt. And I’m talking the 1% of the green belt that is classed incorrectly to begin with.

“Too many proposals are blocked at the planning stage due to local politicians being worried about NIMBYs and a local backlash against a development than they are about addressing the lack of housing in their area.”

Lord Hollick, chairman of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, criticises the government’s response to committee’s report Building More Homes:

“The government continues to rely on the private sector to build more houses when, as our committee heard, these builders are incentivised to maximise profit margins not increase the number of houses they build. The government has failed to recognise the need for local authorities to build more homes and for them to be freed from unnecessary and arbitrary financial restrictions that severely curtail their ability to build.

“We are also disappointed the government has ignored our suggestion to give a single cabinet minister responsibility for ensuring suitable unused public land is made available for developing homes.

“Without a champion for that work at the highest level in government there is a danger an opportunity to bring those spaces into productive use will be lost.”

Jonathan Manns, head of regeneration and director of planning at Colliers International

“The secretary of state has revealed a predictably damp squib. We turned up at the Last Night of the Proms expecting an evening of vigorous flag-waving, only to find the Albert Hall is empty and has closed due to funding cuts”

Communities secretary Sajid Javid told the House of Commons:

“Walk down your local high street and there’s one sight you’re certain to see. Young people, faces pressed against the estate agent’s window, trying and failing to find a home they can afford.

“If we don’t act now, a whole generation could be left behind. We need to do better, and that means tackling the failures in the system.

“The housing market in this country is broken and the solution means building more houses in places people want to live. We are setting out ambitious proposals to help fix the housing market so that more ordinary working people can have the security of a decent place to live.”

In response to the white paper, shadow secretary of state for housing, John Healey, said:

“The measures announced in Theresa May’s long-promised Housing White Paper are feeble beyond belief. After seven years of failure and a thousand housing announcements, the crisis is getting worse, not better. There are 200,000 fewer homeowners, homelessness has doubled and affordable house-building has slumped to a 24-year low”

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