Theresa May's plan to tackle housing crisis dismissed savaged by senior Tories: 'Nonsense'

Former housing minister and local government chief warn 'nothing will change'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 04 March 2018 22:25
Theresa May tells developers to 'do their duty' to the country on home building

Senior Tories have poured scorn on Theresa May’s plans to tackle the housing crisis, warning they will fail to give Britain the homes it desperately needs.

A former housing minister and the Tory head of the Local Government Association (LGA) both warned “the nonsense will go on and nothing will change” unless the proposals are dramatically beefed up.

In a speech today, the Prime Minister, vowed to get tough with property developers who sit on planning permissions, warning they could be penalised in future bids.

But Gary Porter, the LGA chairman, said the only solution was for the Treasury to lift harsh restrictions on borrowing, to allow local authorities to build the homes themselves.

“If we want more houses, we have to build them, not plan them. If we want cheaper homes, we have to build them, not plan them,” Sir Gary tweeted.

Otherwise, he warned: “The nonsense will go on and nothing will change. Less homes built next year than there were this year.”

Nick Boles, the housing minister for two years until 2014, praised the post, saying: “This is spot on. We cannot wait for our dysfunctional house-building industry to build the homes we need.”

Sir Gary then added: “Why not let councils build so many houses they don't have to ration them just for the poorest in our society.

“Then key workers can have affordable housing where ever they live, until they can afford to buy!”

The only time the Government’s new target – of 300,000 homes a year – was met, in the 1970s, councils build more than 40 per cent of them, he pointed out.

The criticisms risked holing Ms May’s housebuilding plans below the waterline, even before they were formally delivered at a planning conference in London.

In her speech, the Prime Minister insisted the Government is “rewriting the rules on planning” to ensure developers and local authorities build more properties and restore the dream of home ownership.

The shake-up will make the system fairer and more effective by streamlining the process, cutting red tape and ending barriers to building, she will say.

And she highlighted the “perverse incentive” in the bonus structure of some house builders, which fails to encourage them to build home that are affordable.

But, in last year’s budget, the Chancellor ruled out allowing town halls to borrow billions to build homes – preferring a headline-grabbing cut in stamp duty for first-time buyers of most properties.

The decision to continue relying on private developers – while setting the target of 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s – was a defeat for Sajid Javid, the Housing Secretary.

Last year, housebuilding rose – to 183,000 new builds, or 217,000 homes including conversions – but only after falling sharply after the Conservatives came to power in 2010.

Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Under successive governments, we have not built enough homes. As a result, prices have risen and risen and so many people are locked out of the market

“The only long time answer to this is going to be more supply……we are no longer going to stand by when councils and developers do not do the right thing.”

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