Housing may be at the top of the government’s agenda, as Alastair Stewart of Progressive Equity Research says (22.01.16), but neither he nor the government have spotted the elephant in the room.
Despite the fact that more than 90% of the UK is open land, there is not enough land to build houses on. It is crazy. Having passed through the looking glass, we are now in Wonderland with Alice. A great achievement for frogs, bats and great-crested newts, sadly tough for our children and grandchildren, who may never own a home.
Policies to help small builders alongside the bigger ones is right. But they will do little to overcome the actual problem - the land supply deficit. Another 1% or 2% is needed. Will reality always be ignored?
Reading illustrates the impact of political impotence. Deputy council leader Tony Page says house prices in Reading are among the fastest-rising in the country, with demand far outstripping what is possible when account is taken of how much land is available. In Reading alone, at least 14,000 new homes are needed in 20 years. After that, what then? The newly published draft local plan policy is silent. Obvious long-term radical solutions are ignored in favour of old-fashioned town-cramming to avoid building on green fields.
To solve the problem we desperately need political leadership. Abba Eban once said: “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all the alternatives.” Wisdom looks unlikely to bail out this generation of first-time buyers despite David Cameron’s growing doubts about big builders.