There is no quick fix to solving the housing crisis. As discussed in part one of this blog, solving any problem is a process and the first step should be to ‘stop the bleeding’ – by implementing strategies to reduce public spending on short term, unsuitable accommodation for those in immediate housing need.
Here, in part two, we look at what QED sees as the next step in the process – implementing a step change in policy to address the drivers behind the housing market.
Planning was once visionary, it was once progressive, there to enhance and protect society and our environment. We need to rediscover this.
The housing market can seem complex, but is actually relatively simple, driven by supply and demand. For too long UK housing has been seen as an investment market rather than a necessity for a properly functioning societal economy.
Serious questions need to be asked around whether the resulting system of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 remains current and appropriate for today’s housing need. The majority of Local Plans and Housing Need assessments are cumbersome and inflexible. In the age of big data surely there is a much simpler, more flexible and effective system to monitor housing need and most appropriate land use?
Architectural company Elemental’s "half-finished home" initiative in Chile is a great example of simple yet effective policy at work – a redevelopment project built with sound economics and sustainability in mind. But if a similar project were to be proposed in the UK it would inevitably be dismissed at the door because of the current prescriptive nature of our planning system – this needs to be addressed.
If there is to be a long-term re-adjustment in the affordability of UK house prices then this is the type of visionary policy the UK requires. As such, we are calling on the Minister of State for Housing & Planning, Alok Sharma, to implement the following measures:
- a long term policy commitment to reducing demand for housing, increasing supply and bringing prices back in to line with earnings
- a planning framework that is suitable for today’s dynamic economy which can cope with the consequences of exponential growth
- a culture shift: Councils must be able to build to rent and self-build should be encouraged, as too should co-housing, housing co-operatives and the latest in innovations, such as moveable building kits
This can happen by:
- Abolishing Right to Buy, Help to Buy and Shared Ownership schemes that drive demand for privately owned homes
- Changing the rules to allow Local Authorities to build housing on their land
- Coordinating international investment and driving investment in affordable housing rental models
- Bringing back the outline planning application, simplifying processes, reducing the cost and work involved in establishing the principles of development – making the system more accessible
- Highlighting best practice in the UK in the co-operative and co-housing sectors
- Addressing the balance between central governments biased to entitlement spending and directing discretionary spending towards pioneering innovations
When you begin to consider using discretionary government spending to drive innovation in housing in detail, it provides direct results; increased housing supply, which if manufactured in the UK provides further indirect economic benefits; jobs and investment.