Launching the Housing White Paper today (7 February), Homes and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid focused clear expectation on the need to build more. “The only way to halt the decline in affordability and help more people onto the housing ladder is to build more homes. Let’s get Britain building”. If only the action supported the rhetoric.
The White paper is full of good intentions and summarises nicely the various initiatives and supportive noises made by the government over the last few years. More emphasis on releasing land for development, more support for SME builders, yet more finance available for first time buyers – with the ambition to help “over 200,000 people become homeowners by the end of the parliament.”
Once again the focus really seems to be on home ownership. The headline recognition that long term rental should be a solution to many households appears to be more a recognition of defeat in the face of spiralling prices than a real commitment to providing long term, secure, affordable rented accommodation outside the private sector.
However, while the paper could have been so much more radical it is good to see discussion starting on long-term planning. In my view one of the key brakes on substantial new housing development is the volatility of the market. Manufacturers can’t invest in innovation or increased capacity; investors are wary of supporting a market prone to rapid slumps and contractors can’t commit to training.
Increase security in the long-term future of housebuilding and many of the problems inherent in the sector disappear. Therefore, the Paper’s focus on the need for all local authorities to plan properly for future housing demand is definitely a step in the right direction. Once future demand is identified in a rational and comparable way, then maybe, just maybe, we might see future delivery also settling into a predictable shape.