Encouraging property investment and addressing issues of demand will not get Britain building again, according to one expert. In his paper entitled "The challenge of the housing crisis", former government minister Nick Raynsford claims housebuilding levels will not rise by introducing incentives alone as long as the planning system remains in a period of upheaval.
However, not everyone sees things in this way. "We have a hopelessly inadequate supply of housing, chronic affordability problems, rising homelessness, a serious backlog of poor conditions and inefficient energy performance, and a legacy of social segregation to tackle," Mr Raynsford began. "Few commentators would disagree with most of this analysis, nor deny the extent to which housing in Britain today is in crisis. But while there will be widespread agreement about the extent of most of the problems, there is no agreement about solutions."
Yet it is growing clear that the Help to Buy scheme, incentives and planning reforms have not created a functional housebuilding model. This can be seen in research from the National Audit Office, which showed no correlation between the number of homes qualifying for the New Homes Bonus and planning application approval rates.
Mr Raynsford is also critical of housing benefit budgets and claims they must be gradually rebalanced against the amount spent on housing delivery. Currently, around GBP 25 billion is being spent on housing subsidies, GBP 23 billion on Housing Benefit and under GBP 2 billion on supporting social and affordable housebuilding. While rebalancing this won't be a simple or quick process, steps need to start being made for a "sensible but realistic expansion of the private rented sector".
Meanwhile, a new vision for housing is also needed, according to Mr Raynsford - one that doesn't favour either the creation of new settlements or urban regeneration. Ultimately, the goal should be to create high quality affordable houses and successful new communities. It is also important to aim for environmentally progressive developments that help the government to meet its economic objectives.
- Thursday 01 August 2013