Originally published on September 13 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
As Theresa May’s government busies itself trashing the legacy of David Whatsisname and George Wotsit, what about housing?
The new government’s pick-and-mix approach to the pre-referendum commitments now includes the budget surplus target, a sudden switch to grammar schools, a delay on Hinkley Point and a downgrading of the Northern Powerhouse.
But housing is still stuck in the tray marked pending. The soundbite of ‘a country that works for everyone’ could signal a change of direction but equally well it might just mean one that works for everyone providing they are home owners.
So comments by Gavin Barwell in his first major speech as housing minister yesterday make for interesting reading. Speaking at RESI in Newport (curiously a conference held in Wales that is all about England) he said:
‘The way you make housing in this country more affordable to rent and buy is you build more homes. There is still a role for the government doing specific things to help people on to the first rung but this can’t be at the exclusion of all else.’
Originally posted on August 24 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
A million new homes by 2020? The latest housebuilding statistics for England suggest little progress towards the government’s target or aspiration or ambition. I forget which it is this week.
There’s the usual mix of good news (starts up slightly on the previous quarter and last year) and bad (completions up on the previous quarter, down a bit on last year).
But is this graph shows there are few signs of a step change in output. After an uptick in 2013/14, starts have now been stuck on just over 140,000 for the last nine quarters. Completions have now caught up.
And this is before any real impact from the Brexit referendum. Projections by Capital Economics in a report by Shelter yesterday suggest that housebuilding will fall by 8% over the next year because of uncertainty following the vote and that output will be down 66,000 homes as a result.
So a year into that five-year non-target, it seems perfect timing for chancellor Philip Hammond to launch his much-touted fiscal stimulus in the Autumn.
Originally posted on August 15 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
Cathy Come Home has lost none of its power as it nears its 50th anniversary. As everyone in housing knows, the classic BBC play brought homelessness to national attention. Shelter was founded a few days after its first transmission, Crisis a year later and many housing associations at around the same time.
There are currently three different ways to watch again: the original BBC play by Jeremy Sandford and Ken Loach is on iPlayer, a stage version by Cardboard Citizens will be on tour over the Autumn and Winter and its production is also available on YouTube). Housing associations with a connection have also formed the Homes for Cathy group to raise awareness.
Watching the original for the first time in years, it was obvious that Cathy is still just as hard hitting as an exposé of what happens when a family slip through the safety net. Her harrowing descent from flat to squat to traveller camp to hostel was watched by 12m people in 1966 (a quarter of the population) and they got the message that housing matters.
In that final scene at Liverpool Street station, Cathy’s kids join the other 4,000 that the commentary tells us are taken into care each year because their parents are homeless.
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 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.