It’s heartening that housing has been in the headlines of late.
How do we build the houses we need?
Anyone who has been grilled on national radio will feel sympathy for the Green leader, Natalie Bennett, who struggled to explain how the party would fund delivery of 500,000 social homes by 2020. It’s a shame that the coverage focused on her performance rather than the question itself, the answer to which should be at the centre of any convincing programme to address the housing crisis.
It might surprise some people that CPRE supports the need for a boost in housing supply and even more of a surprise that we accept that some of this will need to go on greenfield sites. But it has been our position for some time that we need a significant increase in the provision of affordable housing, in both urban and rural areas. Between 1950 and 1980 more than 100,000 affordable rented homes were built each year by social housing providers across England. It’s not yet clear what the other parties are saying about social housing provision, but matching that level over the next Parliament will achieve what the Green Party is advocating. So how could it be done?
First, housing must be the top domestic priority for the newly elected Prime Minister. Second, it needs to be recognised that the current system will not deliver for the vast majority of those who can’t meet their housing needs through the market. Measures are needed that tackle the demand side including: reducing the incentive to treat housing as an investment; levelling the fiscal playing field between the housing haves and have nots; and economic policies to achieve a better regional balance in demand for housing.
Bold action is also needed on the supply side. We need more public funding for social housing with a new generation of council house-building; a more diverse sector with a boost in provision by housing associations, smaller builders, custom and self-build providers; support for the principle of planning requirements for affordable housing on all sites; and significant long term investment in neighbourhood planning to realise its full potential, particularly in rural areas.
To meet housing needs close to where they arise, the great majority of this new housing should be on suitable previously developed, brownfield sites. Research carried out by CPRE and published towards the end of last year shows that there is enough such land available now for at least 1million new homes, and that it’s a constantly replenished resource. Making the best of brownfield – the focus of our most recent housing report - will require the new Government to adopt a fresh vision for urban renewal so that we get better places – and housing - for all.
Find out more
Download our reports: From Wasted Space to Living Spaces (5.8MB PDF) and Removing obstacles to brownfield development (3MB PDF)
Read Luke Burroughs' blog on Increasing affordable rural housing