Solace Blog

My 2018 Housing wish list

By David Cowans, Group Chief Executive, Places for People

2018 is here, and with it a fresh opportunity to boost our national housing supply. Last year, the Government announced £44 billion in measures to deliver around 300,000 more homes a year. It was a step in the right direction, but as the Chancellor stated, there’s no one single solution to the housing crisis, and we need to look at more than just the numbers. 

The burning question is how we are going to deliver these homes quickly and to a high standard. To be sustainable, any new housing must be built on the right sites, alongside facilities that local communities want and need.

This will require more innovative thinking, and here are three suggestions for the Government to consider:

Greenbelt grading

Preserving our greenbelt is vital, but it’s not all idyllic British landscape. In London for example, research by London First showed that just 22% of the greenbelt consists of land that is environmentally protected or has public access.

 If the Government is serious about reaching its housebuilding targets, it must be more forensic when considering the greenbelt for development. It’s not a case of whether we use all or none of it; local authorities should be responsible for reviewing and grading greenbelt, and releasing low quality land for development. This could include land which is spilling over from existing developments, located around the edge of towns or in scrapyards.

 Stamp duty holiday for self and custom build

 Not only do we need to increase housing supply, but also the types of homes available. For example, we have a chronic shortage of high-quality housing for older people to buy and rent, so more retirement properties are essential. Enabling older people to downsize will also free up existing housing stock for young people and families.

Although it currently makes up a small percentage of the market, self and custom build could play a vital role in increasing supply alongside the volume housebuilders, providing people with more choice, creating more movement in the market and freeing up existing stock.

Recognising this, we’re currently running our own custom-build pilot schemes and embracing technology to help deliver these types of properties more efficiently. 

But the Government needs to act too. The present challenge is to make custom and self-build a more mainstream and viable option for home buyers. Offering stamp duty holidays for these property types could provide the answer, giving this small but valuable market the impetus it needs to grow.

Putting infrastructure first

Finally, the Government needs to prioritise investment in housing as infrastructure – a message we have been promoting for many years.  Housing must be seen as a fundamental requirement for our country, to be prioritised alongside national decision-making on energy, transport and water.

The Government should only put equity into large-scale schemes and places with a focus on providing infrastructure before the housing. This gives more weight to the long-term requirements of a local area, and puts the needs of communities squarely at the forefront of construction.

I'm not saying these proposals provide all the answers but they do emphasise the need for more suggestions and collaboration to help us find innovative solutions focused on housing delivery. These ideas may not result in a magic solution, but they will help to develop more effective ways for the UK to hit its housebuilding target.