Ac­tion at last in UK hous­ing, but things need to be speeded up

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

It has been a whirl­wind, the an­nounce­ments have been com­ing fast and fu­ri­ous for hous­ing in the UK and the push for more af­ford­able homes to be built has been gen­er­ously wel­comed.

The plans an­nounced by Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May and Com­mu­ni­ties Min­is­ter Sa­jid Javid are long over­due. Of course, they kept them for the party conference sea­son, want­ing to grab the head­lines, but the big ques­tion is whether it is too lit­tle, too late.

Just a few days ago, the latest in­dex from the Halifax shows that house prices in­creased by 1.4% in the third quar­ter of 2017. In the three months from July to Septem­ber prices have seen their fastest growth since Fe­bru­ary, just be­fore the trig­ger­ing of Ar­ti­cle 50 be­gin­ning the Brexit process at the end of March, and av­er­age prices reached a new high.

The data from the Halifax Bank also shows that prices in­creased by 0.8% in Septem­ber month-on-month to an av­er­age of GBP 225,109 and are 4% higher year-onyear. In­deed, the an­nual rate of prices growth in Septem­ber was higher than in Au­gust when it was 2.6% and at it is the high­est growth rate since Fe­bru­ary. It is also the sec­ond month in a row that the an­nual rate has picked up.

So, even with Brexit, a snap general elec­tion and a sum­mer slow­down, the re­lent­less push up­wards has not re­ally been di­min­ished and there is plenty of ev­i­dence to show that first-time buy­ers are still strug­gling to get on the hous­ing lad­der.

So, May an­nounced GBP 2 bln of ex­tra fund­ing for a new gen­er­a­tion of coun­cil and hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tion homes in Eng­land. But this will re­alise just 25,000 more homes for rent in ar­eas where the short­age of af­ford­able homes is the most acute.

The Depart­ment for Com­mu­ni­ties and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment pointed out that since April 2010, around 333,000 af­ford­able homes have been de­liv­ered, in­clud­ing 240,000 for rent. More than twice as much coun­cil hous­ing has been built since 2010 than in the pre­vi­ous 13 years.

It also an­nounced a GBP 2.5 mln cash boost to speed up the de­liv­ery of over 155,000 new homes in the pro­posed gar­den towns across Eng­land. Nine lo­cally-led gar­den town de­vel­op­ments, from Bices­ter to Taun­ton, will each re­ceive new fund­ing to fast track the build out of these large hous­ing projects.

David Orr, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Na­tional Hous­ing Fed­er­a­tion (NHF), de­scribed May’s an­nounce­ment as “a wa­ter­shed mo­ment” for the na­tion and Brian Berry, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Fed­er­a­tion of Master Builders (FMB), called it “brave and bold”.

But it should be re­mem­bered that in the house build­ing hey­day of the 1950s and 1960s, a healthy pri­vate sec­tor was al­ways com­ple­mented by sig­nif­i­cant lev­els of so­cial house build­ing. In the 1960s, for ex­am­ple, around 400,000 homes were be­ing built per year and half of those were so­cial hous­ing.

Plan­ning is still an is­sue. The Mayor of Lon­don has just stepped in to get the num­ber of af­ford­able houses in a de­vel­op­ment dou­bled, so such a step that stops a de­vel­oper, with coun­cil ap­proval, to build fewer homes at the bot­tom end of the mar­ket should be wel­comed.

But the Mayor of Lon­don can­not go it alone. The plan­ning process needs to be ad­dressed and al­though there have been plenty of prom­ises in this di­rec­tion, there is not much ac­tion. And it is not just a mat­ter of speed­ing up the plan­ning process, these prom­ises need to be fol­lowed with a real com­mit­ment if they are to have any im­pact.

The un­der­sup­ply of hous­ing in this coun­try is putting se­ri­ous pres­sure on prices and af­ford­abil­ity across the mar­ket as the Halifax in­dex shows. Speed is of the essence.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.