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Column 29th July 2020

Build, build, build should really be build the social housing that we need

Build, build, build said Boris. There’s a clear political message that England’s planning system is broken and needs change.

Since 1997 there have been 18 housing ministers and hundreds of changes to planning legislation.

Large areas of the country have turned into massive building sites and even more land has planning permission granted but, according to the government, we still are nowhere near to building enough new homes.

The grant of planning permission can lead to huge increases in the value of land. At the moment, the main beneficiaries of this are landowners and developers.

More of this value could provide more infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals and affordable housing, as well as measures to tackle the climate emergency.

When planning permission is granted the style and energy efficiency of the homes is fixed but it might be many years before these homes are built and the carbon impact of building these inefficient homes shouldn’t be underestimated.

The big problem is not the number of homes but the number of affordable homes and the definition of affordable which includes homes to rent and discounted purchase.

As unemployment increases more people will need social housing and this is always in short supply, partially because of the “Right to Buy” scheme put in place by Boris’s idol, Mrs Thatcher.

Building social housing just to sell it at a discount was a good way of buying votes but hasn’t enabled the stock of social housing to grow to meet the need.

Our councils can currently request up to 30% of new homes are affordable but that doesn’t mean they are social housing just that they must be sold a little cheaper than market homes.

We need a nationwide project to build Council houses (to be retained as social homes in perpetuity).

Why can’t some of the increase in land value, and perhaps the money set aside for HS2, be used for this purpose?

After all, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority has recently said that the successful delivery of HS2 appeared unachievable and that there are major issues with the whole project which don’t appear to be manageable or resolvable.

The estimated total cost of the project (£100 billion) could be used to build a large proportion of the council homes that we need across the country and spread the jobs nationwide.

So build, build, build should really be scrap HS2 and build the social housing that we need.


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