As the election campaign enters the home straight, a lot of organisations are turning their thoughts to the first 100 days of the next government; key moments like the first Queens Speech and Spending Review. What’s note worthy this time around is how high up housing is in the priorities of organisations outside the sector.
Last week, the CBI – Britain’s leading employers’ organisation – released their list of key issues they wish to see the next government prioritise in their first 100 days. In a guest post below, Dave Rublin explains why the shortage of homes features so prominently and what action they would like to see.
Dave Rublin is a Policy Adviser for the CBI (Confederation of British Industry)
When the country wakes up on the morning of 8th May 2015, it will do so after one of the most unpredictable general elections in living memory. Whoever is in power will face up to some real long-term challenges, including changing skills needs, greater global competition and low social mobility. A lack of decent, affordable housing cuts across all of these challenges, making it critical that building new homes is at the centre of efforts to create a more prosperous Britain.
Like Shelter, the CBI believes that the new government should immediately prioritise housing, demonstrating its commitment to helping people attain a better quality of life. Our business plan for the government’s first 100 days, Best Foot Forward, puts housing at the heart of the policy agenda.
The need to build more homes is not just a social priority, but an economic imperative. In 2013/14 the net supply of housing fell more than 100,000 units short of the 240,000 homes needed each year to meet demand. This shortfall is not a recent phenomenon. For decades Britain has failed to deliver a sufficient supply of homes, incurring significant costs for households and businesses alike.
Recent CBI research found that the housing shortage now costs households an extra £4 billion in inflated housing and transportation costs, with significant knock-on effects for business. Our members consistently cite housing as one of the biggest threats to their ability to compete, with significant difficulties reported in recruitment and retention of employees affected by the lack of housing.
Broadly speaking, we seek action on three “P’s”: planning, plots and partnerships.
Above all else, we must have a plan to combat the housing shortage. Best Foot Forward calls for the introduction of a comprehensive new housing strategy to take a root and branch look at housing policy across the board, mixing ‘big ticket’ solutions with more granular improvements. While there will be no quick fixes to resolving the housing crisis in the next government, a strategy can join up the efforts of national and local authorities more effectively. For example, infrastructure delivery should be coordinated with home building to fast-track the development of large housing sites.
Plots refers to the land supply needed to ramp up home-building. The 2010 National Land Use Database estimated that there is roughly 35,000 hectares of brownfield land in Britain suitable for housing – enough to build more than 1.4 million homes – of which 40% is owned by the public sector. Despite this potential, the location and extent of publically owned land is unclear, particularly at the local level. The incoming government ought to begin a complete assessment of all publically owned land suitable for new homes so it is registered online by 2016, in order to be freed up for house building. However, we also recognise that building on brownfield alone will not be sufficient to meet demand. A new generation of garden cities is needed, with 10 sites designated for development in the first 100 days to attract the investment necessary for creating viable communities.
Finally, building the homes we need will require partnerships between the private and public sectors and the communities affected by new developments. Although support for local house building is growing as people recognise the urgency of building more homes, we need to ensure community buy-in for new developments. So, the next government should commission a review into how to best link incentives to the delivery of new infrastructure chosen directly by local communities. In addition, the regulatory environment must continue evolving to attract institutional investment at scale into house building through joint ventures and other forms of public-private cooperation.
We agree with Shelter that housing is a bellwether for the well-being of society. A robust supply of quality homes creates jobs, improves public health and narrows income inequality. We urge the new government to use its first 100 days in power to show its dedication to tackling the housing shortage, and helping communities across the country deliver the homes necessary for them to thrive.