Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid has upped the political rhetoric surrounding building new homes.
Opening by painting a clichéd picture of ‘hardworking people’ with their noses pressed against an estate agent’s window (ignoring the fact that the majority of house hunters are on a sofa looking at Rightmove), Javid repeated the oft-told fact that the average house now costs almost eight times what most people earn in a year.
“The reason housing has become unaffordable for so many is simple: demand is hugely outstripping supply, because Britain isn’t building enough new homes,” Javid said. “Things reached a nadir under the last Labour government, where housebuilding fell to levels not seen since the 1920s and the number of first-time buyers dropped by a whopping 55 per cent.
Javid said that the £2 billion of funding to pilot large-scale ‘accelerated construction’ techniques announced in the Autumn statement won’t result in the cheap and nasty pre-fabs of the past.
“Think of them as ‘made to measure and ready to go’, the kind of thing you sometimes see individuals using on Grand Designs,” he said. “It’s the most popular way to build modern, stylish homes in countries like Germany and Japan. Now it’s going to happen here.”
Due to be published in January, the Housing White Paper will set out plans to get even more new homes built. “I’ve been very clear with local authorities that I will back them all the way if they put forward robust, well-reasoned, locally-driven plans to get homes built in their area – even if that means making some difficult decisions,” Javid said.
Javid also defended his decision to allow Birmingham’s council to re-designate a small area of green belt land. “Some people have said that, by allowing this, I’m signalling that the Government is no longer committed to protecting the great British countryside, but they couldn’t be more wrong,” he said. “In line with our manifesto commitment, the Government is committed to protecting green belt land and prioritising development on brownfield land.
“Local authorities are responsible for designating green belt land and only in exceptional circumstances should they alter it. I always want to see brownfield sites used first, which is precisely why we’re also putting more money into bringing neglected parts of towns and cities back to life. We’re creating communities where people will be proud to live, and support building on abandoned urban areas like old factories and car parks.”
Javid also returned to his controversial claim that big housebuilders are banking land, despite numerous reports debunking this myth. “At the moment, some of them (big housebuilders) are failing to put your interests first, hoarding land rather than prioritising building,” he said. It’s called “land banking” – not building homes they have permission for so that they can push up demand and prices. That’s not fair on the people of Britain, it’s not fair on smaller building firms, and it’s not good for the economy. It has to stop, or be stopped.”
PICTURE SOURCE: Creative Britain