Weakening space standards won’t make homes cheaper – just smaller

Lots of rumours have filled the vacuum created by the delay in publishing the White Paper on housing. The most worrying one, to my mind, is a persistent suggestion that space standards could be watered down.

This is troubling because we barely even have space standards in this country, and what we have are by no means generous, and in any case are purely voluntary for local councils to adopt.

In fact, no-one actually seems to think they are … Read more

How smart intervention in the land market could save us a lot of money

Successive governments have promised to sell off large amounts of public land, to allow more homes to be built. As we wait for the long-awaited White Paper on housing we think it might be smarter for public authorities to be acquiring land instead. Here, guest blogger Thomas Hoepfner, cofounder and director of the New Garden Cities Alliance, tells the story of how Hamburg built a thriving new neighbourhood – and a new port – using this method.

Why … Read more

Will the housing White Paper deliver?

The rash of housing announcements this week suggest that the government machine is gearing up for the eagerly-awaited White Paper. Some reports – like today’s article in the FT – suggest there’s a struggle going on over the strategic direction of the White Paper. This is unsurprising: everyone accepts that resolving England’s chronic housing shortage will require the grasping of some pretty tough nettles, so some debate over the strategy is entirely appropriate.

Broadly, it’s really positive that DCLG want … Read more

The re-animation of Starter Homes

The first big housing news of 2017 is that one of 2016’s most controversial policies is back. The first Starter Homes will now be built in 30 local areas around England.

At first glance, Starter Homes may sound like a good idea: new homes, built on brownfield land, for struggling first time buyers, and sold at a 20% discount to the market price. What’s not to like?

When it was first proposed, we rather liked the idea of finding land … Read more

Mayor and Chancellor strike a positive deal for London

In last week’s Autumn Statement the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced some very welcome increases in the affordable house building budget – as well as the great news that unfair letting agent fees would be banned. Funding programmes are always complicated things, covering several years and using multiple policy levers – such as direct grants, lending, loan guarantees, and use of public land. So it’s always important to look at the detail of how the headline numbers will actually … Read more

Speculative housebuilding is not enough

On Dispatches last night Liam Halligan highlighted the limitations of the speculative housebuilder model – and Sajid Javid promised to break open the closed market. Bold interventions are needed to enable new types of builder to increase output – we can’t expect the speculative developers to do it all on their own.

Last night there was an excellent Dispatches on Channel 4 looking at private market housebuilding. The presenter Liam Halligan asked why the big speculative developers are not increasing … Read more

Watch out for the Lump of Subsidy Fallacy

Governments repeatedly come up with new types of ‘affordable’ housing that don’t actually make homes genuinely affordable, because they hope this will help more people by making subsidies go further. But this is a mistake, because house building finances are more complicated than doing the weekly grocery shop.

Our new research published today (and covered in The Sun) shows just how few people on ordinary incomes can afford the private rent on an ordinary home. We all know … Read more

Strengthening planning from the ground up

The Neighbourhood Planning Bill is another attempt to balance the competing interests that can make planning so divisive. In strengthening neighbourhood plans and compulsory purchase powers it’s a welcome step towards a strong, positive planning system.

Reading Martina Lees’ excellent Sunday Times piece on the travails of the planning system left me feeling real pity for planners. Everyone seems to hate them – for letting homes get built, for NOT letting homes get built, for being too slow with decisions, … Read more

Welcome moves from the new Minister

Two months on and Theresa May’s new government has not revealed much about its plans for housing – but encouraging signals are now beginning to emerge. Last week the delayed Neighbourhood Planning Bill was published, proposing some welcome reforms, and then yesterday the new Housing Minister suggested that the Starter Homes policy could be tweaked to make it more effective.

Gavin Barwell MP told a property industry conference that supporting homeownership shouldn’t be at the exclusion of support for … Read more

Should private renters get the Right to Buy?

This is my second blog in response to Civitas’s excellent new report Restoring a Nation of Homeownership. This morning’s post concluded that Civitas’s Peter Saunders was right to draw attention to the demand side of the housing affordability equation – not instead of, but in addition to the growing consensus on the need to build more homes. Even if we do start building the number of homes we need, house prices will stay high unless something is done about … Read more

Building more is essential – but not enough to solve the affordability crisis

What with the EU referendum hotting up, hooliganism stalking Euro 2016, and Donald Trump enraging half the world, there’s not a lot of unanimity at the moment. But almost everyone now agrees that we need to build far more homes in England. Happily the government does too, having recently increased it’s ‘ambition’ to build a million new homes this parliament to a full blown ‘commitment’ – which Westminster-watchers assure me is a significant shift. The word on Whitehall is that … Read more

The true scale of homelessness

A version of this blog first appeared on Inside Housing immediately after the budget last week.

On the face of it, last week’s budget was promising news for homelessness. £115m has been pledged to help tackle rough sleeping – arguably the worst and most visible manifestation of our housing crisis. Today’s move by the government to try and stem the devastating and avoidable rise in homelessness is a welcome step. But it’s also long overdue considering the scale of the … Read more