Quit blaming, get building on public land

Marnix Elsenaar, head of planning at City law firm Addleshaw Goddard, said:

“Our modern culture of blame has driven critics towards both house builders and Help to Buy as culprits for unaffordable housing in recent months. Yet no politician will stand up and say, “We want house prices to fall,” since much of the nation’s wealth is tied up this way. This in itself is an endemic problem that cannot be solved with one or two market measures.

“Principally, figures clearly show that Help to Buy has had little real effect driving the gains seen in the South on account of the high prices and high salaries needed to afford properties. It’s easy to blame the major house builders but the commercial realities are what they are: finance remains tight and the planning system retains a number of fundamental issues.

“Schemes designed to finance small developers have had little impact and the State remains steadfastly against council house building, despite huge reserves of public land and record low rates. Some crucial questions need to be answered about making the planning system function better in the modern age but ultimately demand for housing isn’t going to decrease.

“Today’s figures highlight just how much profit ministers could have made for the state if they’d built thousands of council homes and sold them on to institutions just as they do with railways and roads. Many now look to China and rightly ask why schemes like Battersea Power Station take 30 years to get going.”

See Marnix’s previous Guardian columns on Labour’s land bank debacle and why affordable housing needs to think about the size of the pie, not the slice.

For more info see: www.addleshawgoddard.com