In order to solve the UK housing crisis, we estimate the government will need to build between 250,000 to 300,000 homes a year until 2020, to keep up with existing demand. With news that the much anticipated White Paper aimed at solving the UK’s Housing crisis is expected to be made public any day now, I have outlined what we expect to see within this in order to meet this target.
Having a Tailored Plan for the Housing Crisis
Within the UK, affordability and under-supply issues are arguably greatest in London. To that end, there should be a focus within the White Paper to address this in its own right. The London Housing Commission found that the capital should be exempt from the national planning policy framework, with the London Plan instead given priority, and the mayor should have the power to secure compliance across boroughs. Within the rest of the UK, more guidance for local planning authorities on how to measure their housing need to ensure homes are being delivered where they are needed most, will also be critical.
Freeing up Land
In its current state, the land market is not functional in meeting the UK’s housing needs; this will need to be improved in conjunction with the planning system. The compulsory registration of all land, full public transparency on land ownership and incentivising house building on private sites, especially for small and medium sized developers, should be included. The government has an opportunity to increase the supply of new homes through its Accelerated Construction Scheme, provided it speeds up the release of land in the areas that need it most, and that it does not simply replace land that would have been released by the private sector anyway.
An overhaul of the current UK planning system is undoubtedly going to form the backbone of the white paper. This should consist of;
· Tackling Nimbyism – Getting tougher on both local councils for refusing to approve new homes to meet local needs, and on developers who refrain from building on consented land.
· Councils to produce five-year housing quotas – A number of local councils are currently working to produce their Local Plans and on top of that, they will have to deliver key and realistic five-year housing quotas as a way to help plan for future town’s populations and supporting infrastructure.
New Construction Methods
Encouraging the use of prefabricated or modular homes as they are now more popularly known, which should consist of incentives to lenders to finance this construction method along with government funding, could ensure that the supply issue is solved within an effective timeframe and the governments’ ambitious build targets are met. Due to improvements in technology, the design and durability of these homes is now much improved and they should no longer be compared with the poor quality associated with post war years. Due to skill shortages effecting supply, and delays with planning permissions and freeing up of land for construction – quick construction methods could ensure the speedy delivery of much needed new homes at cost effective pricing.
These suggested changes are by no means exhaustive, but are some considerations which would hopefully go some way towards tackling the housing crisis. Whether the full White Paper will be extensive enough to tackle the housing crisis remains to be seen, but these rumoured policies are hopefully a sign of what could be a practical and well-planned strategy.