The National Housing Federation’s statement, based on Oxford Economics’ Research, that home ownership will continue to decline, from 73 per cent of households at its peak to a likely 64 per cent in the next decade, brought Grant Shapps into the spotlight on the Today programme this morning.
Interviewer Evan Davies knows a little economics and that relief for the millions locked out of home ownership will only come from much greater housebuilding (interview available on iplayer). So he badgered our friend to say if housebuilding would increase as a result of the government’s various policies. Now you might imagine that the answer would be ‘yes’. But instead there was prevarication and several attempts to explain the intricacies of the New Homes Bonus, bottom up rather than top down, and the rest. It was a minor relief that he didn’t explain his houseboat strategy.
Davies, apparently unimpressed, pressed the simple point about whether building will rise. Yes or no? Our hero blustered… difficult to predict… try to make them go up… disappointed if not… pulling out all of the stops… Still the word ‘yes’ did not escape from his lips.
What can we read into this equivocation? Well, a cynic would say he knows that
housebuilding is not going to increase under his policies and may well fall into further decline. And even a friendly interpretation could go no further than to suggest the probable real truth. He has no idea. One giant experiment – scrapping the regional
framework of strategies and targets in favour of localism plus a little financial incentive – is leading to chaos and uncertainty and power being put in the hands of those opposed to housebuilding. No-one knows what the outcome will be, but we can all guess.
Amongst other indicators, the Oxford Economics report shows that the number of projects receiving planning approval – an important measure of the ‘pipeline’ for new build – has not recovered from the collapse caused by the recession. According to OE, the policy changes “are already having an impact on the planning decisions made by a number of local authorities – e.g. Bristol and the surrounding authorities, Milton Keynes and Leeds have cut their future housing allocations by a total of 88,000 according to the Home Building Federation. As such, we see only a gradual recovery in house building – it will take until 2020 or beyond for new starts to reach pre-crisis levels.”
The NHF is calling for more government investment in affordable housing to stimulate a wider, faster economic recovery, for suitable surplus public land to be made available for the building of affordable homes, for local authorities to regularly assess housing need and for ministers to make a renewed commitment to building the homes the country needs.