Housing is now the number one domestic priority for the government – yes, the government does have priorities other than Brexit.
And by the time you’ve read this, the PM may have got to her feet to make her second major speech in just a few days, about how she will change housing planning policy.
The Conservatives know that housing is the key to them holding on to power again in 2022. Before the ‘strong and stable’ election last year, the parliamentary party perhaps thought it was invincible, but they now see the metrics going against them that could push what they see as normally sane people into voting for policies that are radical, dangerous and Corbynistic.
Rent controls? Sequestering empty homes? Pushing affordable housing targets so high that schemes are undeliverable? Is this the dystopian future the government should have been talking about?
Perhaps this is not surprising. The Conservatives see the elections in May going against them and they know that, if they fail to deliver, it could mean people in their thirties and forties giving up on capitalism, in the knowledge that securing a decent place to own or even rent could be beyond them. When it takes about half of someone’s disposable income in London and parts of the south east to secure a place to live, this is a far greater crisis than perhaps even securing a favourable outcome to the talks in Brussels.
Interestingly, this housing crisis does not translate across the pond to France, Germany, Spain or Italy. The housing crisis is in Britain, so it must follow that there is something wrong that the government must fix in this country.
The PM and Sajid Javid, along with his colleagues at the new Ministry, are now on a personal crusade to attempt to fix this crisis.
- They knows it’s a supply side problem – tick.
- They knows that it’s about granting consent for, and allowing development on, land in the right places (not the north, but the south and particularly London and the Home Counties) – tick.
- They recognise that modern methods of construction is the future – tick.
- They know that the planning system is a major block to the system, and things like viability appraisals might need amending – tick.
- They believe the lack of diversity in the market is not helping us build – tick.
- They knows that NIMBYs, many within his own party, are part of the problem – tick.
- They know that councils have not been given the scrutiny that perhaps is urgently needed – tick.
The speech will announce five new towns in the corridor between Oxford and Cambridge. It will crackdown on what they call NIMBY councils. It will tell local authorities to sell-off land, and call for all public sector organisations to do the same. It will give new PD powers to existing landowners. It will announce a new policy on the green belt – prioritising those areas of this land which has already been built on. It will prioritise a policy on homelessness, and allow more affordable homes to be built for key workers. And it could put a bar on developers who refuse to build on land on which they have consent for homes.
From Thorncliffe’s point of view, this crisis presents an opportunity to harness young people’s support to developments, in the form of YIMBYs, for developments that were previously in no-go areas.
For Sajid and the PM, they knows their mission. Let’s see if this new NPPF and planning policy delivers.