Yesterday on the BBC [Victoria Derbyshire] there was another labour leader Q & A and in two hours housing was only mentioned once and for less than a minute. Now I am not saying that it is Labours problem to deal with, but it shows the lack of interest which is shown by all political parties today. When the parties are asked about housing, they seem to have a whole host of ideas, but nothing ever gets done.
It has been clear for some time that housing supply is not keeping up with demand. Reasons for rising demand include improved life expectancy rates and a growing number of one-person households. There are almost 1.8 million households on English local authority housing registers and significant levels of overcrowding in the private and social housing stock. Poor housing impacts directly on residents’ health and educational attainment, while difficulties in accessing affordable housing can also limit the ability of people to move to find work. The need to increase the supply of housing and tackle affordability issues is a key housing policy issue. Yet despite the critical social and economic role that housing plays, it has tended not to have the same political profile as, say, health and education.
The onset of the credit crunch in 2008 put the achievement of housing targets under serious pressure. Despite rising demand, the collapse in mortgage advances meant that private builders reduced the supply of new housing. Put simply, house-builders will not build houses that they cannot sell.
Pressure is continuing within the housing industry to amend borrowing rules so that, in line with the rest of the EU, investment by public corporations is no longer counted as part of the public sector debt, thus removing a constraint on investment in council housing and creating more of a level playing field between the providers of social housing.
I would hope that last weeks budget has improved the situation for housing in this country because until we start building houses little else will change.