David Cameron has announced plans to build 200,000 “new affordable homes” in the UK in what many see as a rehash of recent policy announcements. We only need to look back to the last election to see all political parties discussing the new build crisis. The main centrepiece of the last election was affordable housing and while many politicians waxed lyrical about increasing future availability there has been very little in the way of detail.
So, is it fair to attack the Conservative policy on housing in the UK or is David Cameron really ready to deliver where so many politicians have failed?
What is David Cameron promising?
In a significant diversion from recent housing policy across the UK the Conservative party will look to force builders to offer “low-cost homes” for sale on their new developments as opposed to rented properties in years gone by. He claims that historically politicians have attempted to hoodwink the UK public by tagging low-cost rented accommodation as “affordable housing”. Whether or not he is right is debatable but surely the Conservative Party has been hoodwinking the UK public as much as other leading political parties?
The idea that developers will be forced to offer discounted low-cost properties for sale to those under 40 is certainly progress in theory. Quite how the government will push this particular policy through to fruition remains to be seen because as we have seen in years gone by, talk is cheap.
Protecting affordable housing policy from abuse
The figure of 200,000 new affordable homes is not an annual figure but something which will accumulate by 2020. As a consequence there is still a need to push through various changes to planning regulations in the UK with a suggestion that more “wasteland” could be made available for new developments. This in itself has significant challenges because much of the land which may become available has not been used to date for specific reasons.
The price of the 200,000 so-called “starter homes” has not been mentioned although the authorities will look to put in some protection. In essence, those who benefit from this new scheme will be prevented in some shape or form from “flipping” their property for a quick profit. Again, this may be difficult to police in practice but in theory it does seem to be hitting the right buttons with the UK electorate. Long-term property ownership is still something which many people aspire to put fewer and fewer people are getting the opportunity.
Will this solve the UK housing crisis?
While the figure of 200,000 “affordable homes” will catch the eye of journalists around the world over the next few days it is by no means the answer to the ongoing UK housing crisis. Aside from these affordable houses there is a need to increase newbuild numbers by in excess of 100,000 per annum. Whether or not the Conservative party has an appetite to take on this extra demand and potentially risk deflating the UK property market with additional stock remains to be seen.
Buy to let investors have benefited enormously from the significant shift from buying property to renting over the last 20 years or so. Would a capitalist Conservative movement be willing to effectively pull the rug from underneath these investors? This may be a challenge for the conscience of the Conservative party?