The three questions that next week’s housing green paper has to address
“Affordable housing” may sound like a contradiction these days, but Gordon Brown has put it at the top of his policy agenda. Going beyond that to make it a reality will need specific measures, particularly from councils, and next week’s green paper is an ideal opportunity to suggest what they might be.
There are three that it has to include. First, more land needs to come through the planning system. There is no point in the government trying to improve affordability by setting ambitious output targets if the amount of land available with planning permission continues to fall.
Second, making housing more affordable should not be a black-and-white choice between public sector provision and the open market. A report from the Home Builders Federation (HBF) recommends that more low-cost market homes be built. They are to be delivered by the private sector and tailored to the needs of first-time buyers and key workers.
Third, we need a quicker and more responsive planning system. HBF research has shown that, on average, it takes more than 15 months for home builders to secure the consents they need to start work after the submission of a planning application. This process must be streamlined and simplified, without eroding local democracy.
Britain faces a choice. Either we unlock land, or we continue to prevaricate, and make it ever more difficult for first-time buyers and key workers to take their first step on the housing ladder. Next week’s statement provides an ideal opportunity to recognise the needs of our future generations.
Paul Pedley is the executive deputychairman of Redrow and chair of the Home Builders Federation’s Affordable Housing Policy Group