Originally published on July 24 on my blog for Inside Housing.
The government has wasted a ‘once-in-a generation opportunity’ to tackle the housing crisis by failing to develop a strategy for disposing of public land.
That’s the damning verdict on the much-vaunted Public Land for Housing Programme from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this morning (Wednesday).
The MPs find that by 2020 the government will have sold land for just 69,000 of the 160,000 homes it promised in England between 2015 and 2020 – and even that estimate relies on some heroic assumptions about progress over the next 12 months.
A second target to deliver £5 billion of receipts from the sale of surplus public land over the same period will be met – but only because of the £1.5 bn sale of Network Rail’s railway arches in February that was not part of the original programme.
When you consider that is happening in the middle of a housing crisis and in the wake of an austerity drive that has been closing public services around the country, that is an abject failure.
And those headline figures only tell part of a story that has an ever bigger failure to deliver affordable housing at the heart of it.
Originally posted on July 22 on my blog for Inside Housing.
Three different news stories in the last 24 hours provide a powerful reminder of what could be at stake for housing in the transition from Theresa May to Boris Johnson due on Wednesday.
The government’s consultation on ending Section 21 no-fault evictions was finally published on Sunday along with a proposal to give private renters access to the government’s database of rogue landlords.
Conservative think-tank Onward called for cuts in stamp duty with proposals very similar to those put forward by Johnson during the leadership campaign.
And the Conservative Brexiteer-in-chief Jacob Rees-Mogg wrote a pamphlet for the Tory Institute of Economic Affairs putting the libertarian case for an end to ‘socialist’ interference in the housing market. .
The timing of all three is significant as it provides some indications of what the outgoing regime thought important enough to get out before the other lot take over and what the wider Conservative party thinks might be possible under the new regime.
Originally published on July 22 as a blog for Inside Housing.
As we celebrate the centenary of what was effectively the birth of council housing in 1919, it’s also worth remembering what happened just two years later.
Christopher Addison was the minister of health in the post-war coalition government of 1919 and it fell to him to deliver on the promise made by the prime minister, David Lloyd George of ‘a country fit for heroes to live in’.
The Housing and Town Planning (or Addison) Act that received Royal Assent 100 years ago this month (I started the celebrations early) was the landmark legislation that established the principles of council housing and also set out housing’s role in the wider health and wellbeing of the country.
As the King’s Speech put it in April 1919: ‘It is not too much to say that an adequate solution of the housing question is the foundation of all social progress.’
As seen at the time, especially by Addison himself as a surgeon before he became an MP, that housing question started with the consequences for health of the insanitary conditions and overcrowding suffered by millions of people.
The Addison Act provided generous subsidies for new council homes but it also set a framework that ensured that slum landlords did not profit from slum clearance.
Yet just two years later, in July 1921, the housing programme was abruptly scrapped. Only 213,000 of the promised 500,000 homes were delivered and central government assistance to replace and improve slums was reduced to a grant of just £200,000 (around £11m in today’s money) for the whole of Great Britain.
Originally posted on July 12 on my blog for Inside Housing.
As far back as I can remember, every government has promised to tackle abuses of our outdated system of leasehold.
Between 1979 and 1997, the Conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major legislated four times on leasehold reform.
The Labour government of Tony Blair promised ‘a comprehensive package of leasehold reforms’ in 2000 and introduced the alternative system of commonhold in 2002.
Piecemeal reforms improved things a bit for leaseholders but commonhold has still only been used on 50 developments at an optimistic estimate – in contrast to the expansion of similar tenures like strata title and condominiums across the rest of the world.
Little wonder when leasehold offers so many advantages to be profitably exploited by landowners, housebuilders and freeholders.
Now, in the wake of the twin scandals of cladding and leasehold, all that could – finally – be about to change.