So recently I have been reading that:
- The TCPA is reporting that affordable housing delivery is often harder in lower income northern areas, which entirely reflects Barratt’s experience;
- UK now has the lowest levels of owner occupation in the EU, except for Germany, where there was an even greater imperative to build lots of post war rented housing;
- The housing market would work better if we removed the ‘political preference’ towards owner occupation and abolished the ‘financialisation’ of housing.
Any reading of democracy would say that in a country where 86% of people want to own their own home, the so called ‘political preference’ is simply our elected leaders responding to what people want. Indeed, given the much higher rates of owner occupation across Europe there is an argument they aren’t doing it very well.
Not really sure what the financialisation of housing actually means. However, in a country where even new affordable homes are often built and paid for by private house builders, housing delivery can’t be de-financialised. If the vast majority of people want to own their home, and there are funders and builders willing to build them, there doesn’t seem much political logic in not supporting that. Especially if it is also a primary source of affordable housing.
Whether we like it or not, the aspiration for the security of home ownership is deeply ingrained, wherever in the world it is realistically available.
One area where financialisation is successfully encouraging new housing provision is the growth of private rented new build. The so called ‘wall of money’ is now driving out large numbers of city centre apartments. Perhaps the question is whether this supply/demand is being driven by the availability of funding, or the the lack of an affordable home ownership product which many people might prefer. Or perhaps a combination of both alongside a more footloose labour supply. One thing is sure, some of the recent PRS completions, (absolutely by no means all, and especially via PD) are the slums of the future.
Recent reading has also perhaps highlighted the increasing number of reports by a London centred commentariat, about a London centred housing problem but then claiming to present national solutions.
The reality is very different housing challenges between North and South, and the need for different ideas for both. Perhaps (dare we say) even a national, spatially based, housing strategy.
A national strategy which recognises that:
In the South:
- There are way too few homes, of all tenures. Rising occupancy rates, significant population growth and affordability issues prove this;
- Slum clearance, and ongoing gentrification and regeneration schemes have improved the quality of the stock, albeit not everywhere;
- The massive housebuilding activity in the 1930’s, and the New Towns programme from the 50’s, has bestowed a legacy of relatively spacious owner occupier housing within reach of the capital.
Whereas in the North:
- There remains huge quantities of poor quality homes, both public and private, unsuitable for today’s housing aspirations;
- High proportions of rented homes, both social and PRS, especially within the core cities;
- There wasn’t the same extent of 1930’s private build, so a much lower proportion of spacious housing with gardens that many families still want, within easy reach of the key employment centres.
In otherwords, a national strategy which recognises that the need for many more new owner occupier homes is perhaps as important in the North as it is in the South, albeit for slightly different reasons. Asking the North to become as economically successful as the South, but with a much poorer housing stock within reach of the city centres won’t work.
And not sure that the focus on delivering huge numbers of extra high density rented homes in the North is necessarily the right approach, unless of course the political imperative is simply to avoid any housebuilding in any locations where the ‘I was here first’ brigade may object.
And the current travails with SOAN are not adding to confidence in this regard.