Opinion: the Chancellor's housing plans need to cater to everyone's needs, including downsizers

Paula Higgins
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National Security Council Meeting In Response To The Situation In Ukraine
Chancellor Philip Hammond on his way to build some houses presumably (Source: Getty)

Earlier this week, the government announced two major housing initiatives; a £3bn Home Building Fund to help smaller developers enter the market, and a £2bn Accelerated Construction Programme, which aims to get houses built quickly on public land.

There was no mention of extending Help to Buy mortgage guarantees (due to end soon) or of new shiny schemes aimed at helping people afford to buy. Don’t get me wrong, here at the HomeOwners Alliance we welcome these schemes and regularly speak to people who want to use them to help make the leap onto the property ladder. But it’s tinkering around the edges of the bigger problem: we simply don’t build enough homes.

While there is no single silver bullet to solve the housing problem, building more homes is the central piece of artillery we need to attack the housing crisis.

Due to the woeful lack of house building over the last 30 years, our homes are eye-wateringly expensive, not just in London but in other parts of the country. It’s not until supply starts to meet demand that today’s young adults will be able to afford to buy their own home.

Read more: Almost half of all renters are over the age of 45

So with its first housing policy announcement post-Brexit, this new Conservative government has put the focus squarely on building. Could this be the government-backed national house building programme the country desperately needs? Well, it’s a start, but the numbers being bounded about are all far off the 250,000 to 300,000 new homes that experts say are needed every year – a target that has never been achieved.

Not only is it not enough, but we worry about the quality. One of the main complaints from our 3m website visitors is about problems with new homes. It seems you have more protection buying a toaster than a new build home.

There’s also concerns about the types of homes being built. Our research showed that more than half a million over 55s have abandoned plans to downsize because they can’t find anywhere appropriate to move to.

Read more: How a 24/7 Tube service could alleviate the housing crisis

With pressure on house builders to do more and faster, what bargaining power does the government have left to ensure a) house builders are delivering a good service and b) are building homes that meet people’s needs and, importantly, c) building homes people can be proud to live in?

The saving grace is that the Home Building Fund should attract new developers to the market. Only well designed, attractive developments will make communities want to embrace them.

So while Sajid Javid asks us to put nimbyism to one side for the greater good when faced with a housing development on our doorstep, we say he should put pressure on home builders to offer developments that homeowners, whether buying or living next door, can fall in love with.

So yes, build more and faster, but do it with the care that delivers homes that stand the test of time.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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