Originally published on July 15 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
Take your pick: targets for new homes are much too low; the private sector cannot deliver them; and policy is too focussed on home ownership.
A report published on Friday by the all-party economic affairs select committee of the House of Lords does not so much criticise the government’s approach to building more homes as skewer it.
And one of the clearest explanations I’ve yet read of why current policy cannot, and will not, work does not come from just any old committee. The group of Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and Crossbench peers includes two former chancellors of the exchequer (Lords Lamont and Darling) and two former permanent secretaries of the Treasury (Lord Burns and Lord Turnbull) with more cabinet ministers, senior mandarins, special advisors and business people also in the mix. They are drawing on decades of experience of previous failures in housing policy.
The report is also brilliantly timed, just at the point when Theresa May’s new government is getting down to work and preparing for life after the referendum and George Osborne’s budget surplus targets.
Originally published on July 12 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
Where does housing fit into Theresa May’s vision of ‘a country that works for everyone’.
The home secretary launched her campaign for the Conservative leadership with a speech in Birmingham on Monday. Within two hours she was certain to be prime minister. And by Wednesday night she will be in Downing Street.
Whether Monday’s events were choreographed with Andrea Leadsom or not, May’s speech sounded like one made by a leader in waiting. So much so that, as many people have noted, the bits about predatory capitalism and the cost of living read like they were lifted from one of Ed Miliband’s speeches before the 2015 general election.
After six years at the Home Office, May is still something of an unknown quantity on housing. A speech from 2013 that was widely seen as positioning herself to run for leader did not even mention the word.
The Birmingham speech fills in some but not all of the blanks – and once you strip away the rhetoric it begs all sorts of questions about how much she will really change.
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I just checked my passport to see when it expires. On the front it says ‘European Union’ and ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’. Inside it says ‘British Citizen’.
After the referendum that the winners believe ‘took our country back’, the chances are that by the time I come to renew it none of these things will be true.
My citizenship of the European Union, giving me the right to live and work in any of the other 27 member states, will be gone. The United Kingdom and Great Britain, political constructs of centuries of history on these islands, will more than likely be gone too.
Great Britain, the union of England and Wales with Scotland, could soon cease to exist: the Scots may have voted No to independence but after voting to Remain in the EU on Thursday even unionists are coming out for a second referendum.
Northern Ireland, which also voted Remain, could see itself transformed. The majority of people may be proud to be British but they also know that Brexit could wreck the Good Friday Agreement and end freedom of movement between North and South.
Even the future of Gibraltar, for so long the rock at the heart of the British Empire, looks uncertain following its 96 per cent vote to Remain.
So by 2020 I could be a citizen (or subject) of a very different country. Whether we call it England, England and Wales or Rump UK, the constitutional clock will be turned back more than 400 years.
I will be an inhabitant rather than a citizen of Europe, the cultural clock turned back more than 40 years to the days when we used to call the land mass across the English Channel ‘The Continent’.
Originally published on June 24 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
As the dust settles on the momentous vote for Brexit, the one certainty seems to be uncertainty.
I blogged last week about what would follow a Leave vote that seemed a possiblity but no more than that. Here’s my updated take on the likely consequences for housing now that it’s a reality.
The markets are signalling, no screaming, that they expect huge dislocation. Shares in leading housebuilders led the stock market plunge, with falls of 40% or more at one stage, and banks were not far behind with falls of 25%.
You could read this as a signal that the City expects house prices and land prices to fall with severe impacts for both – or as a reaction to panic and uncertainty.
Either way, there will be short-term consequences. Housebuilders look certain to scale back development, stop opening new sites and hold off on decisions to invest in land. Equally, few people will want to buy in a market that could be about to see prices fall and the wider market will stall.