Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Building for the future

I chair the House of Commons All-Party Select Committee on Communities and Local Government. We’ve been conducting an investigation into housing supply and have just published our conclusions.
For decades, successive Governments have failed to deliver sufficient homes to meet demand. The country faces a significant housing shortfall, and the financial crisis has amplified the problem.  232,000 new households are forming each year in England, and yet last year fewer than 110,000 new homes were completed.
There is no 'silver bullet'. We have to muster all the resources we can.  The Government’s housing strategy has, in some aspects, made a useful start and I hope many of its measures will provide a stimulus over the short to medium term. But we need much more action if we are to see significant long term improvement in housing supply.
We set out four key areas for action, which, taken together, could go a long way to raising the finance needed to meet the housing shortfall:
  • Large-scale investment from institutions and pension funds
  • Changes to the financing of housing associations, including a new role for the historic grant on their balance sheets
  • Greater financial freedoms for local  authorities
  • New and innovative models, including a massive expansion of self build housing
We think that pension funds and large financial institutions have a blind spot when it comes to housing but their investment could deliver a significant number of new homes for rent.
After a visit to Almere in the Netherlands, we were convinced that there was real potential in self build, where people manage the construction of their own homes. Self build schemes could be a major new source of housing, but it will require government, local authorities and lenders to work together to get schemes underway very quickly. I’m pushing to get this initiative piloted locally.