The government is trying once again to engineer a housing boost to stem Britain’s continuing economic bleed.
Remember the previous attempts at ‘kickstarting’ house building?
- May 2011: FirstBuy, which offers “a much-needed shot in the arm to the housing market and the construction industry – supporting thousands of jobs.” (Shapps)
- November 2011: £400m to “restart the housing market and get Britain building again” (Cameron).
- May 2012: NewBuy and Right to Buy discounts to provide a “vital boost to the housing market … and backing thousands of jobs in construction in the process.” (Cameron)
And what’s been the impact?
New housing construction fell 24% in the last quarter, with the number of new homes being built falling every quarter since January 2011.
So they’re going to have another go this autumn (They tend to do these stimulus packages once every six months).
- Eric Pickles is sending out hit squads of planners to help 13 local authorities ‘renegotiate’ their agreements with private developers, effectively trying to strip out requirements to provide affordable housing.
- The government is considering underwriting housing association bonds so they can borrow more cheaply to build more homes.
- George Osborne wants to re-open the Localism Act and take on Eric Pickles over planning again – pushing for greater deregulation.
It’s a hint of their rising desperation that they’re willing to look again at planning after the political kicking they took from their usual allies last times: from the Telegraph to the National Trust to the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
But what else is left? They don’t have the tools to reverse the housebuilding decline without changing their economic course more fundamentally, which they won’t do for political and ideological reasons.
They’re thrashing around to escape the noose they’ve made for themselves. This package won’t work, nor will the ones that come after it. We’ll just see more and more desperate but ineffective measures to get some houses out of the ground.