Nickell to head new housing body

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The Independent Online

Stephen Nickell, a former member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, has been parachuted in by the Government to address the growing affordability crisis in the housing market.

Professor Nickell, who served as an external MPC member between 2000 and 2006 and is currently warden of Nuffield College, Oxford, will head the new, independent National Housing and Planning Advice Unit (NHPAU).

The NHPAU, which officially launches today, will work with planners and government to ensure the right homes are built in the right places at the right times.

Research by the unit shows the next generation of homebuyers could face average house prices that are 10 times their salaries unless the number of new homes being built increases. More than a third of non-homeowners think they will never be able to buy.

Professor Nickell said that affordability was both an economic and a social problem. "As housing gets more unaffordable, there is an increase in deprivation in already-deprived areas, an ever-increasing quantity of taxpayers' money needed for social housing, not to mention the problems faced by key workers.

"When I was first approached about the job, I thought 'this sounds quite fun'. But it is also a bit of a poisoned chalice - the very stuff of politics and controversy," he said.

Predicting the MPC will leave rates on hold today, Professor Nickell said the housing market "may be a little off the boil", and would slow further but not crash.