Why we need a fundamental change in housing policy
Post pandemic, many commentators think we are going to see a paradigm shift in the way we want to live and work. They may be right. Monday’s blog flagged up research that claimed millions of us are looking to move house in the near future. But in order to meet our housing needs we need to do more than make it easier for people to move. We also need to dramatically change our approach to housing provision.
Local elections are being held in just over a week’s time. If you are speaking to your candidates on the doorstep this is one of the few opportunities most of us have to question local decision-makers about their policies.
Continually following the same housing model does little to address the housing crisis we face in the UK. Simply building more of the same kinds of housing without addressing problems of affordability, access to services and infrastructure is self-defeating. That only serves to benefit housing developers and those people who can already afford to invest in property, while leaving swathes of the population out in the cold.
Successive governments have wrung their hands over the imbalances and lack of affordability that are endemic in our housing market but they continue to use the same tools to try and solve the problem: promises of increased numbers of new homes and incentives for first time buyers. To-date the strategy hasn’t worked. Property is still unaffordable. There is no indication that current initiatives will fare better than in the past. Worse, there is too much of the wrong kind of housing in the wrong locations and too few affordable homes in the places people want to live and work.
ONS data just published, shows an 8.6% increase in house prices since February 2020. What this means is that the average home is now £250,000 - £20,000 more than the same time last year.
This weeks’ announcement of lower deposits on offer on homes valued at less than £600,000 will help some homebuyers, although lenders may well levy higher interest rates on those taking advantage of the scheme. So the latest bright idea will help some but not all those who want to buy. Richard Donnell, Zoopla’s research and insight director, told the press this week “The scheme will have less impact for buyers in southern England where high house prices are a major barrier to being able to afford a 95% mortgage. This aligns to the levelling up narrative and policy approach of government.”
But is penalising potential housebuyers (and potentially alienating voters) in one part of the country in order to help those elsewhere really the best the government can come up with? Sadly there is no sign from either of the main political parties of a fundamental rethink on meeting our housing needs. But that is what is badly needed if anything is to change.
Author : Maryanne Bowring
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