Wednesday, 7 September 2011

A dysfunctional housing market!

My latest column in the Cornish Guardian looks at planning matters again. It is as follows:

The Government is continuing to attract significant criticism for its proposed National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which one Tory MP has announced will allow developers to build “what they like, where they like and when they like.”

The Framework has been denounced as “cavalier,” while opponents have accused the Coalition of “downgrading the rules which protect the natural environment” and distorting the meaning of sustainability to “mean its mirror opposite.”

At the same time, Government housing minister Grant Shapps has acknowledged that house prices in Britain have become "too unaffordable" while the National Housing Foundation has branded Britain’s housing market to be "totally dysfunctional.”

But their simplistic solution, in line with their planning framework, is to “build, build and build.” This is simply wrong, especially for Cornwall and its communities.

Let’s look back at the last few years and a few facts and figures.

In 1991, Cornwall had about 190,000 occupied dwellings. Over the last twenty years, over 45,000 new properties were built – an increase of 25% in housing stock. And yet, in spite of all this building, house prices went up and up!

Indeed, in the ten years from 1997, house prices almost tripled while private sector rents have also spiralled out of control. But wages, in areas like ours, have climbed by only 35% over the last decade.

The Housing Minister may talk about the high cost of housing, but his Government is doing little to reduce the cost of renting or purchasing a house, especially in low wage areas like Cornwall.

In terms of “affordable housing,” the Government is actually doing the exact opposite and now wants housing associations to charge more for their rental properties.

If Grant Shapps and his colleagues are serious about dealing with the dysfunctional housing market in this country, there is much they can do.

They could and should investigate legislation to control prices in the private rented sector – so that people are not paying out a disproportionate amount of their income to simply keep a roof over their heads.

They need to increase government investment in the delivery of truly affordable homes for local people, and to rebuild a public rented sector with rents kept as low as possible.

And they need to take on the banks who are denying many young families fair mortgages by demanding huge deposits and, in many cases, refusing mortgages to people seeking affordable properties.

1 comment:

fixit44 said...

The NPPF is very worrying. The ‘sustainable’ bit in the presumption in favour of development is completely meaningless. For those authorities without up to date plans in place, permissions will be unavoidable. I am deeply suspicious about this and have been attempting to find out what an up to date plan means. I posted a question on and got this response

'An up to date plan means one that complies with national planning policy, including its requirements for a 5 year housing land supply.
Around 30% of way local authorities have adopted plans (2004 act style plans), this should rise by a % or two in the coming months as plans get adopted.
Of those with adopted plans they will have to get a ‘certificate of conformity’ to show compliance with the NPPF. Arrangements for this have not been revealed, we should know more later in the week. Because the NPPF adds 20% to the 5 year requirement very few plans are likely to pass the conformity test. Some part of plans may pass and other not but the 5 year supply test is the critical one.
Here is a list and map of adopted plans from earlier this year.'

There have been rumours in the housing press
about a 450,000 a year target for new build – denied, but smoke and fire. Given that this is way above anything built even if good times, yet alone the current ones that have seen a huge drop, the only conceivable way this could happen is through an almost complete planning void – hence my suspicions.

With luck the government will have stirred up such a storm with their own voters (and recent evidence suggests this to be the case) that we will see another Cameron flip flop. In the meantime getting the core strategy adopted as soon as possible and having a good look at the details regarding a letter of conformity when available seem like good strategies