In my haste to respond to the latest select committee inquiry into housing supply (a couple of hours spent repeating all the old arguments, I missed the opportunity to comment on the last such investigation carried out by the House of Lords. This concluded that the need was for 300,000 new dwellings each year for the foreseeable future. The Lords are keen on Councils being able to build, but the fundamental point continues to be missed - the need for smaller dwellings aimed mostly at potential down-sizers.
The latest consultation can be found here and is open until September.
HOUSE OF COMMONS
COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON -
Capacity in the homebuilding industry
1 1. whether the numbers of builders and types of firms in the homebuilding industry is sufficient to meet housing demand
- the structure of the homebuilding industry, in particular the role of small and medium-sized developers
- housebuilders' business models and how risk and uncertainty affect incentives to expand
- the sustainability, size and skills of the building industry workforce
- why fewer homes are being started and completed than the number of planning permissions being granted
- the extent to which current planning approaches cause delays to the building of new homes
- innovative approaches to increasing the housing supply, for example self-build, off-site construction and direct commissioning by central government and local housing companies
- the role of development finance and how it can promote or constrain housing investment
(Questions 1 to 8, excluding 7)
Housing will never been fairly distributed while it is treated as a commodity. It will be hoarded by those with the means and rationed by the housebuilders to sustain prices. It is very unlikely that a select committee would recommend Government adopt the level of regulation of prices and rents that would be required to ensure a fairer distribution of housing so the recommendation should be to build only smaller dwellings.
These would be cheaper to build in terms of land, materials and labour and subsequent running costs (with an eye on fuel poverty) and more conducive to neighbourly behaviour than the unsocial or even anti social housing being provided by the volume housebuilders. Small housing is more affordable and an increase in supply concentrated in one market sector might actually have a influence on price.
The key is to provide attractive alternatives to the 8 million elderly households looking to downsize - and release larger homes on to the market.
There is a need for a model to show how many new dwellings would be required if aiming to make the level of occupancy more efficient rather than to aim to provide a new dwelling for every new household. The dynamic of downsizing will mean a significant number of sub-divisions of larger dwellings to meet the declining household size.
Response to Question 7