Private Eye | Botch The Builders

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No.1429 | 14 -27 October 2016

Botch The Builders

The message on housing from the Conservative conference in Birmingham was loud and clear.

“We simply need to build more homes”, said Theresa May.

“Quite simply, we’re not building enough new homes,” said Chancellor, Philip Hammond.

“I’m not afraid to stand up and say that this country has not built enough new homes,” said Communities Secretary, Savid Javid.

Javid and Hammond followed up with a joint announcement of their plans to “Get Britain Building.”

Not to be confused with David Cameron’s plan to “Get Britain Building again” in 2011, or George Osborne’s 4-point plan to “Get Britain Building” in 2015, this announcement acknowledged there was “much more to do.”

And to drive home the point, it made this comparison of housebuilding rates: “In the 20 years from 1969 to 1989, over 4.5m homes were built in England. Between 1992 and 2012, fewer than 2.9m were completed.”

With that 1.6m shortfall in mind, Hammod and Javid will set out their plans in a White Paper this autumn and have already announced funds worth £5bn to boost small builders, and unlock brownfield and public land.

But could a far simpler solution be under their noses?

Why not allow local authorities to build homes again rather than force them to sell those they already own? After all, between 1969 and 1989, councils in England built close to 1.5m homes [33% of all homes built]. Between 1992 and 2012, they built less than 15,000 [0.5%% of all homes built].

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Private Eye | Housing and Planning Bill

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No 1418 |13 May – 26 May 2016

Housing News

A small change to the Housing and Planning Bill is set to make a huge difference to the Government’s scheme to force councils to sell their most valuable homes to pay for Right to Buy discounts for housing association tenants.

The scheme was at the heart of the Conservative election manifesto, but as the bill neared its final Parliamentary stage, the Government still hadn’t published much detail about how it would work. The original plan was set out in a Tory press release during the election campaign, and involved forcing to pay a levy based on the sale of “high value” homes [in the most valuable third of properties in their region] as they fell vacant.

There were tow problems with this: first, independent analysis soon showed this would raise much less than the £4.5bn a year the party said it needed to pay for Right to Buy discounts, replacement “affordable” homes and a brownfield regeneration fund; second, Tory MPs woke up to the fact that many of the most valuable homes were concentrated in their seats.

The Government introduced an amendment in the Lords changing “high value” to “higher value” after recognising that areas facing the highest housing pressure, such as inner London, Oxford, Cambridge and Harrogate, would have to sell a high proportion of their vacant homes. True to form, no detail has yet been published on the impact of their change – Housing Minister “Bungalow” Brandon Lewis argues that his department has to examine “16m pieces of data” on council homes first.

Analysis by housing charity Shelter suggests what the impact might be if the Government wants to raise £4.5bn from an even split of council house sales from around the country. Councils with small numbers of “high value” homes [like Westminster] would have to sell fewer of them, while those with larger stocks [such as Birmingham, Leeds and Southwark] would have to sell and pay more.While this is not a point made by Shelter, there are no prizes for guessing which party runs which areas…