“Solving our housing problem … requires confrontation with vested interests.”
Locally, the politicking over house-building is becoming increasingly fraught:
There is huge pressure for large towns and cities to expand.
Cities of whatever political make-up want to grow:
And Labour-run Exeter is no exception:
All political parties are coalitions, but when it comes to the Conservative party, there are fractures happening which could have profound effects on plans for house-building in Devon.
The current point of contention is the government’s proposals to change planning law:
And revolt is brewing:
What’s been particularly upsetting many is that an algorithm being used to calculate housing numbers “risks destroying suburbia and creating the slums of the future”:
The most ferocious critique of the government’s proposals comes from Liam Halligan writing in the Telegraph, reproduced by East Devon Watch – with a few choice excerpts here. It shows the precariousness of that coalition within the Conservative party and some suggestions for “revolutionising the fraught local politics of planning”:
Housebuilders hold the key to homes crisis
Solving our housing problem requires tackling vested interests, and many of those are connected to the Conservative Party
The galling truth is that the big, powerful developers which hoover up most new planning permissions have long staged a deliberate go-slow, making higher profits overall by producing fewer homes so prices keep rising. Unless ministers acknowledge and tackle this massive market failure, our chronic housing shortage will remain – with all the social and political fallout that entails…
So the big boys control the rate at which homes come to market in certain localities, boosting profit margins way higher than they should be, while keeping smaller rivals at bay. And that’s why our housing market is “broken” – because the industry is largely controlled by a few large players deliberately restricting supply…
We need to free-up parts of the greenbelt – much of which is urban scrub. Far from being “concreted over”, it has doubled in size since the Seventies – and now covers 13pc of England’s land mass while housing, including gardens, accounts for little more than 1pc. This white paper flunks that challenge too, preserving all greenbelt land.
We must recognise, also, that “zonal” planning in some areas won’t much help smaller builders, or tackle unaffordability, when land prices, driven by speculation, remain sky high. When agricultural land is granted planning permission, its value can jump an astonishing 200-fold or more.
But the right to land ownership should not include the right to capture almost the entire value uplift when planning permission is granted – given that the uplift reflects state spending on local infrastructure and the efforts of local businesses to create amenities.
Uplift should be split 50-50 between landowners and local authorities. That would rein-in speculative pressure by making it less attractive to sit on land as prices rise, bringing more acreage to market. Plus, it would raise serious cash to provide schools, hospitals and other local public services, revolutionising the fraught local politics of planning.
“Solving our housing problem … requires confrontation with vested interests,” observed the late Roger Scruton last year, in one of his final interviews. “And an awful lot of those vested interests are, it has to be said, connected to the Conservative Party”.
Has Johnson got the intellectual grit and political determination to inject some genuine competition into our moribund housebuilding industry? Will he fight for capitalism or protect “crony capitalism” instead?