The levelling up of housing targets

Originally published as a column for Inside Housing.

There is no chance of the government achieving its target of 300,000 new homes by the mid-2020s so why has the drama ramped up within the Conservative Party?

The answer is, of course, politics but it is coming from two different directions and there is a long history that lies behind it.

The inclusion of the target in the 2019 manifesto was all about having something to say to younger voters excluded from homeownership.

Note that the commitment is actually to a more weasly ‘progress towards’ 300,000, alongside a promise of ‘at least a million homes’ in this parliament, although both are important in focusing minds within government.

The latter target – effectively 200,000 a year – should be comfortably achieved, not least because it already happened in the last parliament.

Figures published last month showed that 232,820 net additional homes were delivered in 2021-22, a 10% increase on COVID-affected 2020-21 and not far off the pre-pandemic peak.

House builder after house builder has reported falling sales recently, so the total should fall this year regardless of anything MPs decide about planning.

Which is where the other direction comes in: the politics of appealing to well-housed, mostly older voters in affluent Conservative constituencies in the South East from MPs who fear a multiple repeat of the Tory defeat in the Chesham and Amersham by-election at the next general election.

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