Is Housing a Key Political Battleground in the General Election Sweepstakes?


When asked for her number one policy priority earlier this month Theresa May cited tackling the housing crisis - pledging to kick-start a wave of housebuilding by councils and housing associations. She has promised to give more money to local authorities to encourage them to get involved with development and build a “new generation of council homes”. She also said she would allow councils to borrow more money, and reform compulsory purchase powers so that councils could buy land for housing more cheaply.

CPO has always been a knotty question to deal with and part of it is about how you determine the price. Currently, councils work on the assumption that the land will gain planning permission and pay a corresponding price - but May has proposed that they should now pay a lower price in line with the value of land without planning permission.

The sentiment is certainly right - trying to increase land supply, particularly in high-demand areas. The compulsory purchase order (CPO) changes would theoretically make it easier to assemble sites for housing developments and leave more money in council piggy banks to reinvest into the social housing system. But it could also leave landowners short-changed, forcing them to give up their land for less.

On balance however it still marks a healthy shift away from the Cameron obsessed years of owner-occupation. It embraces a more democratic housing policy that takes account of a full spectrum from affordable rent and intermediate ownership through to market rent and long-term climb the ladder investment.

The key to a sustainable housing market is a more diverse set of players delivering these different products. The promotion of more local authority housing should be supported, re-empowering councils and indeed housing associations to deliver thousands of new affordable rental homes can and should create the demand stability needed to support the critically needed modernisation of the industry. Alongside the renewed support for the build to rent sector, this diversity of product will provide a much steadier pipeline of projects across the residential sector which will be critical to delivering the scale necessary to move construction more towards a manufacturing led model.

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