Posts Tagged 'housing'

How to build houses AND save the countryside

How to build houses and save the countryside [FC]On 5th March the UK Government announced a major overhaul of the National Planning Policy Framework, stating that it will “deliver the homes the country needs”. Shaun Spiers, author of How to build houses and save the countryside, out today, argues that although well intentioned, the measures don’t go far enough.

There was much to admire in the prime minister’s recent speech on housing. Theresa May called homelessness in our rich country “a source of national shame” and she is right. She pledged to increase house building, but to do so without “destroying the country we love”. And she attacked big developers for gaming the system and putting dividends and executive pay before building more homes. As I read the speech, I mentally ticked off many of the arguments in my new book, How to build houses and save the countryside.

As a country, we have managed to pull off the difficult trick of building too few homes while losing too much countryside. Unfortunately, however, the policy changes announced by the PM are unlikely to change this. They are well-intentioned, but they do not go far enough. How can we do better?

For years, debates on housing and planning have been largely shaped by free market think-tanks arguing for planning liberalisation: ‘Free up the Green Belt, let builders build, and the houses will come.’ Much of my time as chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) from 2004 to 2017 was spent reacting to some half-baked report from Policy Exchange or the Adam Smith Institute (Alan Bennett’s ‘Adam Smith Institute for the Criminally Insane’). As Keynes almost said, ‘madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some think-tank scribbler of a few years back’.

“the principal cause of our failure to build enough new homes is not planning restrictions, but the fact that the state more or less stopped building houses 40 years ago.”

The anti-planning think-tanks have succeeded in weakening the planning system, but successive reforms over the last 15 years have had little impact on housing supply. This is because the principal cause of our failure to build enough new homes is not planning restrictions, but the fact that the state more or less stopped building houses 40 years ago. It is extraordinary that so many clever people could look at our failure to build enough homes and conclude that planning, rather than the collapse in council house building, must be to blame.

The advocates of planning liberalisation ignor the fact that for 30 years after the Second World War, when more than 200,000 homes were built every year in the UK, local authorities built at least 100,000 of them. Between 1951 and 1979, 48% of new homes were built for social rent. After 1979, local authorities virtually ceased to build and neither the private nor housing association sectors increased their output enough to make up the shortfall. Thus the housing crisis.

“Where the planning system can be blamed for our failure to build enough houses is in its failure to control rising land prices. This is down to its weakness: what is needed is more planning, not less.”

Where the planning system can be blamed for our failure to build enough houses is in its failure to control rising land prices. This is down to its weakness: what is needed is more planning, not less. The 1947 planning settlement had two sides. Its role in constraining development is well known and explains why it is under attack in some quarters. But it also ensured a plentiful supply of development land at reasonable prices.

Between 1946 and 1970, work started on 32 new towns; these are now home to 2.76 million people, 4.3% of UK households. It was possible to create new towns because development corporations were given the power to buy land at agricultural prices, using the uplift in value that came with planning permission to fund the development. When work started on developing Milton Keynes, land contributed only around 1% of the cost of a new home. It now accounts for over half the cost of most new homes. The same principle can, of course, be used for sustainable urban extensions.

We must also do much more to use the plentiful supply of previously developed land within towns and cities. There is enough suitable brownfield land in England to build at least a million new homes, and the supply is constantly replenished. Developers prefer to build on virgin green field sites as they are easier to develop and more lucrative, and the current system allows them to do so. Sajid Javid, the housing minister, has promised a more ‘muscular’ state, but he appears to be more eager to take on ‘nimby’ protestors than to foster some serious competition to the few volume house builders who currently dominate the market.

What is needed is new housing providers, and the state – what Green Alliance trustee Mariana Mazzucato calls the entrepreneurial state – should be fostering them. However much the government pokes and cajoles them, the big builders have neither the means nor desire to build on the scale needed. We need new private sector providers – SMEs, custom builders, factory built homes – and fostering them requires concerted government action. The government should also support a serious programme of council house building – many Conservative councils are calling for the right to build – and fund housing associations to build social housing, so that they can recover their social mission. There is nothing un-Tory about this programme: Conservative governments built plenty of houses before 1979.

As for the so-called NIMBYs, those fighting to protect the countryside from more executive homes and anodyne, anywhere-housing estates have nothing to be ashamed of. My book makes the case for some new housing on greenfield sites, but if we are to lose countryside, let’s make sure we lose it to beautiful, well-thought out developments that do something to help those in housing need. That shouldn’t be too much to ask, should it?

How to build houses and save the countryside, by Shaun Spiers is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for just £7.99.

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Election focus: Housing policy predictions & radical solutions

In the run up to the General Election we will be bringing you insightful pieces from our authors on policy-relevant subjects, including housing, health, welfare and, underpinning it all, increasing social inequality.

Let’s look beneath the distraction of Brexit and Labour’s disarray and examine the issues we really need to be thinking about as we put our cross in the box on the 8th June.

DB pic

Duncan Bowie

In this piece, Duncan Bowie, author of Radical solutions to the housing supply crisis looks at what housing policies may be included in the party manifestos and explains the radical solutions we need.

“The focus on Brexit and the negotiations on withdrawal from the European Union has meant that housing has not, at least as yet, become the key issue in the election campaign that perhaps would have been expected had the referendum not taken place.

Debates so far have focused far too much on the contrast between Theresa May’s advocacy of ‘strong and stable leadership’ and whether or not the Labour Party leader is fit to be Prime Minister or the divided Labour Party is ‘fit to govern’. There has been little focus on policy issues, though (at the time of writing), the main party manifestos have not been published.

The political parties, including the Conservatives, were all caught on the hop by the election announcement and consequently the drafting of the various electoral offers have been somewhat of a rushed process. Even a matter of weeks before the election was called, Labour housing spokespersons were reluctant to make any policy statements policy on the basis that it would be premature to give commitments before 2020, even though housing was bound to be a key issue in the local and city region Mayor elections, which were scheduled. Labour was even hesitant to commit to repealing the 2016 Housing and Planning Act, despite the fact they had opposed it in parliament.

Continue reading ‘Election focus: Housing policy predictions & radical solutions’

The perversity in planning

Adam Sheppard, co-author of The essential guide to planning law, discusses planning policy and, in particular, the Prior Approval system and how this affects the delivery of homes in our communities. 

Adam Sheppard

“Planning is attempting to achieve things. It is trying to make things better.

Planning policy, from the national to the local to the neighbourhood is geared around enabling and realising improvement and forward progress. The regulatory decision making construct then provides the system to support the realisation and manifestation of these aspiration. Why then, is planning today steeped in perversity which serves to undermine it?

There is a specific example here that illustrates this point. This involves the Prior Approval approach – in brief, if something needs oversight because of a potential impact a full planning application is required and approval (hopefully) comes via a Planning Permission from the Local Planning Authority, whereas more minor matters can proceed with the benefit of ‘Permitted Development Rights’ and no such approval is required.

Continue reading ‘The perversity in planning’

Why we need radical solutions to our housing supply crisis

There is now a deep crisis in housing supply in many parts of England. In his provocative new book, Duncan Bowie, author of Radical solutions to the housing supply crisis, argues that policy proposals promoted by Government and many commentators are either just tinkering with the problem, or will actually exacerbate the situation.

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Duncan Bowie

We have not learnt the lessons of the 2008 credit crunch and in fact we have had a housing deficit whether the country has been in boom or bust.

It is time to throw off long held ideological assumptions as to ideal forms of tenure and the relationship of state to market.

There is a systemic problem which cannot be corrected by short term measures and more radical solutions are necessary if the housing market is to be stabilised and the delivery of new homes increased.

“Housing…is now the central component in inequity between households both within and between geographical areas.”

We need to recognise that if we are to tackle inequity in wealth and opportunities, we need to tackle inequity in housing, which is now the central component in inequity between households both within and between geographical areas. It is also central to the growth in inter-generational inequality.

Continue reading ‘Why we need radical solutions to our housing supply crisis’

Danny Dorling on Rev Paul Nicolson, the housing crisis and hope for the future

Following our successful event on The Future of Social Justice held in association with the Bristol Festival of Ideas at University of Bristol on Monday, here is the full speech from Danny Dorling, one of the speakers.

Looking at the impact of changing housing policy over the years, and recent months, Danny points the way towards creating a fairer future and good quality housing for all.

Danny Dorling

Danny Dorling

“Margaret Thatcher’s government sowed the seeds of today’s housing crisis when it abandoned rent regulation in the private sector.

Those seeds were watered by the administrations of John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg who failed to realise the extent of the growing disaster that they were all nurturing. The results are the bitter harvest that it falls on Theresa May’s government to reap: rising homelessness, fear, destitution and dismay. The housing crisis will not end until homes are again seen as places to grow people, not profit. [1]

 

“The housing crisis will not end until homes are again seen as places to grow people, not profit.”

Continue reading ‘Danny Dorling on Rev Paul Nicolson, the housing crisis and hope for the future’

Why Cameron’s housing policy will make the UK more spatially unequal

Today’s guest post by Peter Matthews, co-author of After urban regeneration: Communities, policy and place, was written in response to David Cameron’s announced plan to demolish England’s poorest council estates.

This article, originally titled ‘ABI n* – return of the ABI’ was first published on the blog Urban policy and practice on Monday 11th January 2016.

Peter MatthewsI did my doctoral research on area-based initiatives, or ABIs. Even when I was doing the research the writing was on the wall for them.

The focus of my research had been the former Scottish Executive Community Regeneration Fund administered through Single Outcome Agreements. This ceased to be just as I was going into the field following the first SNP victory in 2007, so it ended up being about the “ending” of meaningful regenerationfor residents.

Following the 2010 election and the coalition government it looked like any form of regeneration was off the cards under the excuse of “austerity”. I’ve co-edited a book – After Urban Regeneration – that argues this very point. My research had turned to broader questions of inequality in our cities, particularly what the increasing focus on community engagement and involvement in service delivery might mean for inequalities in service delivery. Continue reading ‘Why Cameron’s housing policy will make the UK more spatially unequal’

Pick ‘n’ mix housing policy?

Tessa Coombe’s reflection at the end of the party conference season is that once more politicians have failed to grasp the magnitude of the housing problem we face in the UK. She welcomes the enthusiasm of Policy Press authors Hugh Ellis and Kate Henderson and their timely reminder of what is possible with a ‘passionate ambition’ in their book “Rebuilding Britain: Planning for a better future”, as well as looking at the more direct criticism featured in Kate Barker’s latest book “Housing: where’s the plan”. Enjoy…

TessaCoombes

380451857_ce9bad11e3_zAs party conference season draws to a close are we any closer to knowing how to deal with the housing crisis? Housing has certainly featured on the agenda and been the subject of much discussion at many fringe meetings, but have any of the parties come close to a comprehensive policy approach? Sadly, my initial conclusion would be that once more politicians have failed to grasp the magnitude of the problem and have instead come up with a whole load of ‘initiatives’ that play at the edges of the issue rather than provide a strategic, co-ordinated and coherent plan. We continue along the lines of a “pick ‘n’ mix” approach to housing policy, where pet projects and short term ‘solutions’ are promoted for electoral gain – appealing to target groups rather than providing solutions for those most in need.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some decent proposals and some…

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