Friday, July 15, 2016

Yet another housing consultation

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.



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
  1. the structure of the homebuilding industry, in particular the role of small and medium-sized developers
  2. housebuilders' business models and how risk and uncertainty affect incentives to expand
  3. the sustainability, size and skills of the building industry workforce
  4. why fewer homes are being started and completed than the number of planning permissions being granted
  5. the extent to which current planning approaches cause delays to the building of new homes
  6. innovative approaches to increasing the housing supply, for example self-build, off-site construction and direct commissioning by central government and local housing companies
  7. the role of development finance and how it can promote or constrain housing investment

(Questions 1 to 8, excluding 7)

There are many interested parties better qualified than me to respond to these questions.  However, the point should be made that the difficulty in meeting housing needs starts with these being wrongly defined. What is required is a better distribution of the housing stock that means creating a better balance between the size of households (about 2.4 and going down) and houses - with one and mostly two spare bedrooms.

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

The Committee should be provided with all available information about self and custom building and the associations of individuals looking for serviced plots and putting their names down on the registers being kept by the local planning authorities.  To make any real contribution in terms of numbers LPAs should be reserving parts of larger allocations and sites being granted permission.  By linking supply and demand (the self builder is the consumer and the supplier with an incentive to complete asap) theses houses are more likely to be delivered than those being drip fed into the housing market.


Readers may have specialist knowledge to help the committee.  However, I feel that the same question will be asked until Government has the courage to treat housing stock as a 'commons' which needs to be regulated rather than a jungle where the fittest (richest) prosper at the expense of the weakest. 


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