On my way to work today I passed a new development where the scaffolding has just come down.
The hoardings are still up bearing the logo of Building Britain’s Future, launched by Gordon Brown in 2009.
Does anyone remember ‘Building Britain’s Future’? It provided £1.5bn extra for housebuilding during the recession, on top of the £8.2bn for affordable housing that was invested over the four years to that point.
Today, CLG published figures which showed for the year 2010/11 more new affordable homes were completed than for any time for 15 years.
Investing in housing unfortunately does not pay-off within a political timescale: they take a long time to build. But, the decisions taken by a Labour government in the aftermath of the recession in 2009 are still delivering new affordable homes now and have been keeping people in work building them since then.
This government came into office and took a knife to affordable housing and the fiscal stimulus. They unleashed a planning chaos which meant plans for 200,000 homes from private developers were withdrawn. As a result the number of new affordable homes being started is falling rapidly.
Now with the economy flat-lining and unemployment rising, the government has suddenly rediscovered housebuilding as one of the most labour intensive forms of economic activity you can get. Perhaps their plans to give land to private developers or re-heat Right-to-Buy will see housebuilding increasing again – more likely they won’t.
However, it’s too little, and sadly too late, for thousands of construction workers who could have kept their jobs over the last year if the government had stuck to a more moderate and less ideological economic policy. That means thousands of people who could have supported their families, kept their skills up-to-date, helped keep the economy going and helped keep the benefit bill (and government debt) down. And it’s too late for those on waiting lists and first-time buyers who desperately need new homes.
Labour didn’t do enough on housing over 13 years, but it did do a lot – and any new homes you see being finished today are due to Labour’s past commitment.