A not so humble addressPosted: May 27, 2021 Filed under: Fire safety, Home ownership, Planning, Private renting, Section 21 Leave a comment
Originally a column for Inside Housing.
Affordable and safe housing for all’. Who could argue with that?
Pretty much everyone, funnily enough, because this was the title of the housing part of the House of Commons debate on the humble address following the Queen’s Speech.
Catching up with last week’s debate, two things struck me really powerfully: first, just how much politics has been turned on its head; and second just how riddled with contradictions the government’s position on housing really is.
In the post-Brexit and (hopefully) post-Covid world, the more that the blanks in the empty slogan of levelling up are filled up, the clearer the first becomes.Read the rest of this entry »
When planning reform meets politicsPosted: May 25, 2021 Filed under: Housebuilding, Planning | Tags: Robert Jenrick Leave a comment
Originally a column for Inside Housing.
A couple of miles away from where I live in Cornwall a community land trust wants to build 29 affordable homes for people with a strong local connection.
These are the first new affordable homes of any kind in Newlyn for years but (you guessed it) there is a ‘backlash from angry locals’. It’s not the homes they object to (of course not, it never is) but the traffic they will generate.
On the one hand, house prices are way out of reach of local earnings and there is a desperate shortage even of homes for private rent thanks to holiday lets. It would be hard to think of an example of a development more deserving of local support rather than campaign groups organising against it.
It’s a compelling reason why the government’s plans to reform the planning system so that individual planning applications no longer come into the equation and land is simply designated for protection, growth and renewal should be taken very seriously.
On the other, this is one of the rural areas facing the ‘threat’ of 400,000 new homes in a report this week that illustrates the scale of the well-housed Tory rebellion in the shires.
But something else I was reading recently suggests a need for caution. My Style of Government is Nicholas Ridley’s critique of the record of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative administration between 1979 and 1990.
Ridley was one of the main ideologues of Thatcherism and as her environment secretary between 1986 and 1989 he was the architect of the Housing Act 1988 and therefore of much of the housing system as we know it today.
He is also credited with popularising the term NIMBY, although his credibility suffered when it was revealed that he had himself objected to a planning application near his country home in the Cotswolds.
But what’s significant I think is this arch Thatcherite’s admission of complete failure on planning and the political lessons that he drew from it.Read the rest of this entry »
Does Levelling Up mean Softening UpPosted: May 17, 2021 Filed under: Levelling up 1 Comment
Originally published as a column for Inside Housing on May 17.
‘Levelling Up’ has become one of the most resonant slogans in English politics without anyone having a clue what it means.
Two years after it became a key political message, the Johnson government has appointed Neil O’Brien, an influential backbench Conservative MP, to tell them. A white paper is said to be on the way shortly.
The message works because it manages to convey good news for people in the north at the same time as it suggests nobody in the south will lose out.
And after the election results on May 6 it seems that many northern voters have decided that ‘where there’s Tories, there’s brass’.
But what, if anything, does the slogan mean in housing? The regional distribution of problems of affordability and homelessness suggests that it’s London and the south that need levelling up with more affordable homes.
That may be true in aggregate even though the north-south split on affordability is not as neat as that but to see things through southern spectacles misses other issues.Read the rest of this entry »