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Family BS and LSE urge rethink of ‘failing’ housing policy

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  • 08/02/2023
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Family BS and LSE urge rethink of ‘failing’ housing policy
The London School of Economics (LSE) and Family Building Society have come together to call for an integrated housing strategy in the UK.

In a report commissioned by the mutual and produced by LSE, Family Building Society said there had been too many policymakers with differing objectives. 

This comes as a new housing minister was appointed following a cabinet reshuffle yesterday, with Rachel Maclean replacing Lucy Frazer who had only been in the role since October. Maclean is the sixth housing minister to be appointed within a year. 

The report called out the roles of the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which focuses on housing supply as well as the Bank of England and the Treasury which deal with wider macro-economic objectives. 

Christine Whitehead, emeritus professor of housing economics at LSE, said: “If things are to improve, housing policy must be far more strategic and more robust in the face of economic change. 

“Although this will be extremely difficult to achieve it must be attempted if housing is to get out of the current mess.” 

The report said that the mini Budget had impacted the cost of housing because higher mortgage rates squeezed people’s finances. 

The report said policymakers worked “in silos”. It pointed to other departments such as the Department of Work and Pensions, as well as the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and local authorities which have their own agendas towards those who are already housed and people seeking somewhere to live. 

It said no assessments of the overall impact of proposed policy charges were considered, including where they led to “unintended consequences” such as less funding for new homes or landlords leaving the buy-to-let sector. 

Professor Tony Crook, emeritus professor of town and regional planning at the University of Sheffield and co-author said: “It is equally important to get some consistency between national policy on housing and regional and local policy on planning and land supply. Something that has not been easy but must be done better.” 

 

Incoherent and inconsistent policies 

The report said when housing demand fell and showed through lower levels of transactions, developers tended to cut back on investment. However, politically it was “easier to concentrate policy on demand”. 

It also said the Rental Reform paper which proposed the removal of Section 21 and improved housing standards did little to enhance the enforcement of these standards or ensure tenants in default could be evicted easily. 

The report said while the government placed importance on increasing homeownership, “worsening macro-economic conditions will make it even harder to produce a step change in owner-occupation”. 

The national target of 300,000 new homes will be portioned out by each local authority, but only on an advisory basis meaning each authority can set lower or higher targets based on capacity, the report noted. 

It said there was “no obvious way” of meeting these housing needs in other ways if needed. 

Ben Everitt MP, chair of the housing market and housing delivery all party parliamentary group (APPG), said: “There is an enormous housing problem to solve, and successive governments, of all colours, have not got it right. It is complex, as this report shows. We are unravelling the different strands and the next stages are to develop policies that work in harmony. My APPG is a positive part of that effort.” 

Mark Bogard, chief executive of Family Building Society, said: “This report shows there needs to be a complete policy rethink if we are to build a world where not only can young people get on to the housing ladder, working, growing families can move and where older people are encouraged to downsize.” 

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