I spent yesterday at the Housing Market Intelligence conference in London. Naturally I found it excellent. Of course I would say that as I'm involved in it.

Bias taken into account, here is just one of a many of observations from the conference.

Margaret Beckett gave her first speech as the newly installed housing minister. I was impressed by her willingness to put herself into the lion's den so early.

She was warmly welcomed and warmly clapped on her way to next appointment having delivered her message. It was that she will seek to show leadership in this crisis, not simply respond, and that her door and that of her advisers is firmly open. She will listen.

She pleased me in particular by her insistence that she would not be Pollyannaish - you may have read earlier posts where I have suggested the Government seemed blind to the depth of problems in house building.

But she made no bones about the fact that: "This could mean difficult decisions."

So I suspect we are in for some pretty fiery times ahead. Because...

In his speech, Stewart Baseley, the executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said what has been on the mind of many in the industry for some while.

The model that allows social benefits to be extracted from housebuilders, in effect in exchange for providing planning permissions, has been built on the premise of rising land and house prices.

And we know what is happening to them.

For reference, the sort of consensus view at Housing Market Intelligence was a drop of 25% to 30% peak to trough in house prices and, say, 50% drop for land prices, although there were certainly some at the conference with gloomier takes.

The HBF calculates that the burden of the social benefits, be they zero carbon, affordable housing etc, come to about £3 million per hectare - which at the last official count was the cost of residential land outside London.

He accepted that developers had some contribution to make to social objectives, but he said the days when the growing cost of meeting the Government objectives could be paid out of rising land prices were gone.

"Tough choices lie ahead," he said.

At least the HBF and Mrs Beckett start their new relationship with agreement on one point: that there are "difficult decisions" to be made between "tough choices".

But how this will play out and the long-term consequences for the house building industry will be extremely interesting to follow.