Let’s Build the Houses – Quick!


The title for this post is unashamedly borrowed from a 1945 Labour campaign poster, when housing really was ‘the’ election issue. The sentiment is perhaps even more pertinent now, but sadly the response from the main political parties falls well short of what is needed. What hope is there if those likely to form the next government really do not grasp the issues and fail to develop policies that will work. Politics truly seems to have taken over from any sense of ‘what works’!

Yesterday, the Labour Party launched its Manifesto, but sadly there was little new or different about their housing policies. The pledge is there to build 200,000 new homes a year, to build new garden cities, the reinvestment of help to buy ISAs and backing for small builders, but there is nothing new – this has all been mentioned before and most was the subject of the Lyons Review report. So no big surprises, no new policy to get us excited about the possibilities for action and making a difference! If you want to know more, I recommend blogs by Jules Birch and the RTPI, who cover the issues in more detail. I was more encouraged by the work of the Fabian Society and John Healey MP, which considers the ‘overwhelming case for new public housing‘ and puts forward arguments for why we need to build more social housing. Let’s hope the Labour Party is listening to some of this and can beef up their housing policies if elected.

Today sees the launch of the Conservative Party Manifesto, which in housing terms pitches back to the 1980s and the Thatcherite Right to Buy policy, this time promising to extend the policy to Housing Association tenants. So what we have proposed is a policy that sells off affordable housing to individuals, who already live in secure accommodation, undoubtedly without the ability to replace these homes 1 for 1. Quite how this helps us to address the housing crisis and the lack of affordable homes is beyond me, but clearly it could be an attractive policy to those who will directly benefit. For those in private rented accommodation, or living with friends/relatives, or homeless, or living in overcrowded housing because of the lack of available, affordable housing, it’s a policy that further limits choices and that reduces the hope for many of ever finding a decent home.

Those in favour of RtB policy see it as increasing equality and providing more people with the opportunity to buy their own home. This is undoubtedly true, and many have benefited from this over the last 30 or so years. But unless we build new social homes to match those sold, we end up with less and less social housing stock for those that need it. We have an ever increasing affordability crisis in the housing sector. We have more people in poor and inappropriate accommodation. But we have fewer social/public homes to offer those in need. How is that promoting equality of opportunity?

The problems of our housing crisis are there for all to see, the solutions are pretty obvious and mostly agreed upon within the housing profession. But politics takes over and we are left with a reinforcement of the problem rather than a solution to the problem of the lack of affordable homes. Building more affordable homes where they are most needed and maintaining them as social/public housing stock is essentially the simple solution. Instead we seek to sell them off, push people into the private rented sector and support the lack of affordability through benefits payments (which we’ll also reduce at the same time).

So far, whilst it is indeed good to see housing policy on the political agenda, and playing some part in this election debate, I am less than impressed with the ‘solutions’ offered by the two main parties. Let’s build the houses – quick – seems like a mantra we should all be repeating, often and loudly!

4 thoughts on “Let’s Build the Houses – Quick!

  1. You are quite right. The real issue is not the sale of the houses (after all there are still the same people in them) but the failure to build more. This is especially the case with social housing but it is also the case with all housing. None of the political parties have put forward any real policies of how they intend to achieve this. Glibly saying we will build 200,000 or 300,000 house per year is no use whatsoever. In theory it ought to be easy to deliver the 200,000 if the published figures for planning permissions is correct- approx 220,000 were granted permission last year. So the real issue is how can more social houses be built?


    • Robert, thanks for you comments. I agree the key point is about how many we can build, and that these need to be social houses. Both manifestos kind of miss the point on that. They equally fail to provide much on how they will find the land to build the numbers they propose. The challenge is there but solutions are clearly difficult for politicians.


  2. Yet again Tessa bang on the button. So frustrating for us as we have the solution with Apple Green Homes, fully tested, and fully funded, ready to go.
    Its only politicians, and risk adverse, management in local authorities ,stopping it happening.
    People who are getting paid to provide housing yet they aren’t doing it.
    Any other profession, if you don’t do your job you get the sack !!!!!
    Mind you, in Westminster, if you put your hand in the till, say sorry its all ok, anywhere else , its a very different story. Time for a major root and branch change,
    While we wait,,,,,,, the housing situation , gets more and more dire, the people that are holding it all up, live in nice homes.


    • thanks Roger, we need the main political parties both nationally and locally to grasp the issues better and determine to do something about them. Innovation and creativity sadly lacking.


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