Publisher Lesley Mayo

James Parker


Any new money for housebuilding is a good thing, and particularly social housing where the incentives can be few and far between. So Theresa May’s promise of a further £2bn for a “new generation of council houses,” one of the more audible sections of her cough-ridden party conference speech, will be warmly welcomed by councils and builders.

However well-meant the move – no doubt part of her social justice agenda – the PM’s struggles to get the message out have only resulted in a muted reception. Respected organisations and individuals have characterised this gesture, which will build a fairly paltry 5,000 homes per year between now and 2021 – as no more than that.

Shelter said that because there are 1.2 million households on waiting lists for social housing, the investment was a “fraction” of what was required. And even a Conservative, Lord Porter, said it was inadequate, when what is really required is the lifting of the cap on council borrowing that many have called for.

He said the only solution to this complex issue is for councils to be given“genuine powers to invest in housing,” explaining that this means “the ability to borrow to invest,” keep “all Right to Buy receipts to replace sold homes,”and having “powers to make sure developers build approved homes in a timely fashion,” and “adequately funded planning departments so that they can cover the cost of processing applications.”


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VAT expert Robert Facer on why the classification of “new build” is so important

Housebuilder and Developer’s Jack Wooler reports on a luxury Fulham scheme

The House Builders Association (a division of the NFB) also doubted the impact of May’s new money. It said that “removing the borrowing cap on local planning authorities would go a long way towards stimulating councils to build more homes.” However they added that only “radical planning reform” will allow housebuilders to really make inroads into tackling the crisis. In short, we are a long way off even scratching below the surface.

Councils’ rent income has been decimated thanks to the 2016 Welfare Reform and Work Act, which required them to cut rents by 1 per cent for the following four years, and the Right to Buy removing rents altogether, they need all the help they can get. Surely the Conservatives’ ‘localism’ agenda needs more than words behind it, and some concerted investment to free up councils to invest in building houses in the tens and hundreds of thousands the UK needs?

AT HOME IN CANARY WHARF The Docklands development’s next phase offers high-end living from leading architects

Canary Wharf New District © Canary Wharf Group

While Theresa needed to swallow several cough sweets to complete her speech, the social housing sector collectively has to swallow a bitter pill of there being no major leverage in sight, to provide the homes it needs to address the ongoing crisis.

James Parker

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