So what has changed since then and why? We have seen the introduction of housing associations and other social landlords and the right to buy (which seemed like a good idea at the time). The population has grown out of all proportion - to 61.8 million in mid-2009, a 0.6 per cent annual increase in each of the eight years since 2001, double the previous decades’ rate. Plus people are living much longer. These ‘new’ factors have created huge housing shortages in the UK.
The previous Labour government decided to adopt the housing market renewal pathfinder approach to try to rectify low housing demand in the midlands and north of England, while the south east of England struggled with an acute housing shortage.
I won national awards, including the Empty Homes Agency’s National Award in 2001, for my ideas and methods of trying to tackle the problems in the north and soon had people moving from the overcrowded south east, into those beautiful homes in Last of the Summer Wine country.
Since those heady days, our housing problems have got even worse and I think now is the time for this government to set up a UK housing think tank strategy. The body’s main task would be to identify and bring together housing problems via their own regional groups, to scope the future housing policy.
This coalition government is in grave danger of changing things in housing too quickly and with very little evidence of the changes required from the regions. If they continue along this unmapped, panicky route, they could get it very wrong, just like previous governments did.
John Earnshaw, freelance housing, regeneration and crime reduction consultant, Lansdown Housing Consultancy, Barnsley