Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Market guidance

There is no silver bullet to resolve the housing crisis. Instead housing minister Gavin Barwell offers a smorgasbord of interventions to help unlock housing supply. His priorities lie in increasing Local Plan coverage, increasing housing density and looking at how national and local government can help release surplus land into the system.

While the planning system still needs improvement, Mr Barwell’s focus has shifted towards tackling the problem of insufficient permissions being developed into new homes. This supply problem is exacerbated by the dominance of a small number of large builders and the disappearance of small SME builders following the recession, combined with a lack of culture of self-build in the UK, and Mr Barwell wants to see more players in the sector.

He has signalled a more flexible approach towards housing tenure, shifting from a pre-occupation with homeownership towards a housing spectrum that includes homes for sale, shared ownership, private rent and sub-market rent.

There is also greater scope for innovation within the housing market, with offsite construction identified as an obvious opportunity to reduce costs and increase speed of delivery. Y:Cube is a good example of this ‘plug and play’ approach, where a modular, demountable system of apartments can be delivered quickly and efficiently on brownfield sites.

These proposals are all welcome, but more needs to be done to move the dial in delivering the quantum of housing required. Not all green belt land meets its purpose and greater consideration should be given to removing failing sites from this designation. Pragmatic development on green belt land at the edges of existing settlements could be a source of much-needed housing stock which could attract young families.

Can the market fix the housing crisis? The answer is no, not alone. There is now an emphasis on diversifying housing delivery methods and tenures, to cater for a wider range of demographics, lifestyles and means. Given the pivotal role that housing, whether owned or rented, public or private, plays in determining people’s life chances, this broadening of choice can only be a good thing.

Alexandra Jezeph, director, Bright Blue

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