Politicians and civil servants must unite to solve the housing crisis

All the political parties agree the housing market is broken, badly broken, so why don’t they get together to mend it. 

Using the fact that it is an election year as an excuse just will not do.  Housing needs to be taken out of and above the purely political arena to fix it.

There needs to be a coherent policy that all parties, regional governments, civil servants and local councils can broadly support. 

It will need to be implemented over at least a to 10 year period for it to be successful and to bring supply in line with demand.

What will not help is more schemes such as Help to Buy which merely encourage more demand which already outstrips supply, and the gap is getting worse.

The long promised reform of the planning laws is essential but that won’t necessarily help first-time buyers get on to the property ladder as housebuilders may get better returns for their shareholders by building executive homes rather than affordable ones and in the right place.

Although developers of large sites have to put aside part of individual developments for social housing this does not fully address the first-time buyer problem, and there are limits, often very sensible limits, on what first-time buyers can borrow and the amount of higher loan to income mortgages that lenders can do.

Yet developers seem sometimes to sit on land banks that have planning permission, rather watch the land value increase than building on them while at the same time complaining about restrictive planning laws.

Governments, of whatever hue, could help to change developers’ attitudes by promising to reform planning laws but not until they have used up a large majority of the land they own which already has planning permission. 

This should be combined with a set percentage of properties built being specifically for the first-time buyer.

This still would not be a complete answer. Older people need an incentive to downsize to create a bigger market for existing homeowner to move up the housing ladder thus creating a supply for young people and others to get on to the property ladder.

One of the biggest obstacles to persuading people to downsize is the stamp duty land tax which badly needs reforming or even better scrapping. 

The very elegantly crafted temporary relaxation of stamp duty in 2020 to 2021 immediately gave a boost to the whole of the housing market and the economy in general as people moved more.

That combined with developers being encouraged to build more single story homes such as bungalows will undoubtedly help

Solving the housing crisis is not that hard if government works with other stakeholders and pursues coherent policies introduced over a sensible timescale.

And some things that would make a big difference could be done immediately including reintroducing the stamp duty holiday and reforming planning laws.

The current Government’s latest long-term plan for housing and Labour’s desire to achieve 70% home ownership does not address the issues highlighted in a recent report by the London School of Economics and the University of Sheffield commissioned by the Family Building Society.

Specifically, there is no mention of making better use of the existing housing stock, creating  more social rented housing, proper support for home ownership, creating a more effective and affordable rented sector or setting achievable targets and updating local plans to reach those targets.

That is why all political parties should agree on a policy to bring greater coherence, consistency and resilience to the housing market on a sensible timescale.

That would include making a Minister of Housing as one of the great offices of state – not a repeat of the shambles of the last 25 years which has seen 26 housing ministers come and go.  That wouldn’t even happen in an episode of Yes Minister!

Mark Bogard is CEO of the Family Building Society