Statistics released last week show that over the last year the number of affordable homes being built in the UK has dropped by half – and is the lowest it has been since 1991/92.
eMoov CEO and former councillor, Russell Quirk, believes that this is partially down to the government – and that they can do more to help.
He has come forward with several ideas to help fix “Britain’s broken housing market.” This comes just before Chancellor Philip Hammond gives his Autumn Statement, which will be the first major announcement of the government’s taxation and spending plans since Brexit.
- The unattractive parts of the green belt should become a grey belt
The green belt is an area of countryside surrounding major cities that is protected, preventing urbanisation to try and keep outdoor leisure and rural features thriving. Mr. Quirk has claimed that not all the green belt is necessarily picturesque or rural, and should be excluded from the policy – things like industrial estates and scrap yards. He believes that these areas should be reclassified as a “grey belt” instead.
Land in the “grey belt” will still be partially protected, but planning officers would be prevented from automatically refusing development applications – which is what they must do for green belt land.
Mr. Quirk says that building on the “grey belt” will be politically acceptable.
- Councils need to identify their land that is going to waste
When Mr. Quirk was a councillor in Brentwood, Essex, he says he identified “dozens of acres and got it built on” as it was previously untouched land. He believes that councils are not “entrepreneurial enough in utilising” the land they have spare, and a system of penalties and incentives could ensure that this scheme be implemented.
- Government-owned development company
Mr. Quirk wants to see a government-owned development company; that is “not a panel or a commission” and that will identify suitable land, hire contractors, run everything through the formal processes, and build the housing itself.
- Less politics in the planning process
People opposing development projects in their own communities are now a major barrier against government housing policies, Mr. Quirk believes. According to Mr. Quirk, the government needs to remove the “threat” of these people by making it a requirement for local councils to form development plans democratically, “then allow a professional panel of experts” to make final decisions on bigger schemes.