The Moral Duty of House Building

House Building, Morally

The conservative party conference of 2016 produced a new edict on house building, the government apparently seeing it as a “moral duty” to build more homes to tackle the housing crisis.

To this end a fund of £5 billion will be found to solve the housing shortage, alongside theoretical changes in planning permission on brownfield land, to allow “more houses, more quickly, in the places people want to live”.

The proposals come with figures that suggest smaller builders can be encouraged to produce 25,000 homes by 2020, with plans for up to 225,000 in the longer term.

These figures, even if they only represent part of the building programme are woefully insufficient to the country’s needs.

In 2007, the then Labour government proposed a goal of 240,000 houses to be built per year by 2016. This clearly did not happen, in fact the country has spectacularly missed housing targets since the 1980’s.

In the years following the Second World War, house building numbers soared, and not only simply replacing war-damaged stock. Slum clearance and new towns around new industries and social expectations all played their parts.

The figures were running at around 200,000 homes per year, and as the ‘50’s turned into the ‘60’s, the figure was running at over 300,000 houses per year. Many of these were council houses, where the local authorities were loaned money at cheap rates to build houses which would pay for themselves over a period of time by rents.

The anticipated ratio of council built houses to those of private builders was hoped to be around half and half, but in effect, council housing generally supplied consistently higher amounts of homes until the early eighties.

The right to buy, sale of council houses to tenants, marked the effective end of council house construction, and the slump in housing production figures generally.

House building numbers are struggling to reach a half of those from the latter C20 years, and with population numbers continually rising, the housing shortage goes on.

The Barker review of 2004 concluded that the country needed to build 250,000 homes per year for the next 25 years to avoid a housing crisis, the figures show that the industry has struggled to produce half of that figure year after year.

Although the governments new targets seem to carry the weight of a very large sum of money, the number of houses proposed seem few enough to be probably deliverable, but woefully small, in relation to the country’s needs.

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