Treasury resisting idea, says KPMG’s Richard Threlfall

Housing shutterstock 96855058

Housing needs to be recognised as infrastructure in order to solve the housing crisis, according to top industry figures.

Richard Threlfall, partner and head of infrastructure building and construction at KPMG, said its inclusion was important to not only solve the crisis but to better plan infrastructure.

“It’s a long running issue and I certainly don’t see a solution to the current housing crisis that doesn’t involving thinking of housing as part of the broader infrastructure conversation.”

Threlfall, who also chairs the Infrastructure Forum, an independent think tank, added he was completely behind housing being included within the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) remit.

“We argued really strongly for housing to be included in the National Infrastructure Commission’s remit. In fact I had dinner with [former NIC chair] Andrew Adonis and he agreed wholeheartedly but it was a point he couldn’t get past Treasury.

“All it currently allows is for the NIC to take into account the impact of housing on infrastructure needs but it is not able to include housing as an infrastructure need.”

He said the fact “the housing gap is generally regarded as the number one infrastructure need in the country” was evidence it should be considered with other infrastructure decisions.

“Putting it as a separate category really means that there is no one group really pushing the housing agenda. We always get a lot of government announcements on housing, just like we did at the last budget, but there is no single project responsible for it.

“The government continues to look at it as a devolved issue but that means there is no overall plan.”

Threlfall added the only other solution was to give local authorities the ability to borrow and build significant volumes of homes.

He said: “Unless we do one of the two things I outlined the chance of achieving the target of 300,000 new houses a year is that it is absolutely not going to happen.”

Lord Stunell agreed it was inexplicable housing was not currently under the jurisdiction of the NIC.

“It is integral that the NIC is expanded to include housing,” he said. “If we get an effective chair for the commission, include housing within its overall infrastructure scheme and stick to an Industrial Strategy that has construction at the forefront we could come out in a better position than where we started.”