Delivery of new housing the theme of silly season 2012.
This time every year journalists and news editors struggle to fill their pages. August is the traditional month for people to take their holidays, which means less serious stories tend to find their way into news items. We in the business call it ‘silly season’. One consistent theme this year has been far from frivolous, however. The battle to build more homes and solve two of the biggest problems with Britain today has been front and centre of much news coverage.
It is clear that the government must do something to revitalise the housing market. We are still, despite favourable planning policy, building far too few homes in this country. Whatever anyone may think about development, the building of new houses is critical in satisfying the chronic (and worsening) problems of homelessness, affordable housing and the ability to keep families and communities together. The fact that the average age of the first time buyer is now pushing 34 is surely a national disgrace. The current economic difficulties are sometimes used as a reason for making building homes easier, and it is definitely the case that you can create more jobs by giving more planning consents, but we here at Redwood believe the social need for development trumps the economic.
A few months ago Redwood supported the housing charity Shelter in their fundraising Vertical Rush event. Shelter, like many charities and pressure groups, is campaigning hard for the government to provide more support to those who are finding it increasingly difficult to put a roof over their heads. Clearly the government is trying to respond to the developing housing crisis. The Financial Times carried an exclusive in mid-August about a government initiative to try and boost development by relaxing the rules governing the provision of affordable housing (repeated by Reuters).
Later that month a slew of newspaper and internet stories emerged about the slump in new housing starts (The Spectator) and the increasing inaffordability of housing (the Daily Mail). The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that he supports building more homes (conservativehome) but with very little in his armoury to put these words into action.
Now it appears that, with the push for a new deal with developers to kick start construction and development (as reported in the Financial Times) and the recently released Montague Report on supporting the rental market we may be seeing the first concerted efforts to stimulate this market.
Silly season just got serious.