Housing: the need to build build build

Last Thursday (23rd April) I gave a presentation to the Hove Civic Society on the supply of affordable housing to buy and to rent in Brighton and Hove.  I have prepared four bite size summaries of my presentation:

  • The scale of the problem
  • The need to build build build
  • The economic consequences of current housing policy
  • The need to end, not extend, the Right to Buy.

Yesterday I posted about the scale of the problem. Today, the need to build build build:

In a recent debate on housing broadcast on BBC Sussex one contributor asked: “Who will have the guts to build on the greenfield?”.

Of course people are concerned about the countryside, and people like me can be accused of wishing to concrete over the south east. In case we forget, all developed areas were once countryside but were developed to meet housing need.

If you have ever flown into Gatwick, you can’t have failed to notice the number of golf courses in Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Kent.  The defence of the countryside is often more about protecting golfers!

89% of land in England and Wales is still green, completely undeveloped.  If we developed all the homes we need to meet current need, and then did the same again, more than 88% of England and Wales would still be green.

Of course we must build on brownfield sites, but they are just a small part of the answer.

I would want to qualify my call to build build build:  I have no interest in building more homes for the DfL’s – those moving Down from London.  And I think the increasing practice of Buy to Leave (where investors leave homes empty before profiteering from increases in capital values) is an abomination and should be outlawed.

I would want to see 80% of new build homes reserved for rent.  The scale of the crisis requires extraordinary measures and incredible courage by politicians.

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3 thoughts on “Housing: the need to build build build

  1. Paving Paradise.
    Property developers would love to develop Greenfield. Relatively cheap rural land means super profits and means they can continue to sit on their vast unused brownfield holdings which generate profits without the need to expend effort in building anything. Double whammy – and trebles all round!
    I suggested, Andy, that you have a look at Richard Rogers article which clearly lays out the case for brownfield development. (Forget about Greenfield sites; Build in the City. Guardian 15/7/14) He is a renowned architect and was Chair of the Government task force looking into Urban Development.
    He dismisses Labour’s plan to build in the country; he says it’s a revival of the discredited garden cities, which never blossomed into “real” towns, as was the hope, but limply settled into dormitory existence. Perhaps he is too kind here; my experience of Kirby, which was where the people of Scotland Road in Liverpool were ‘decanted’, was rather more hellish. But his real concern is the impact on the city – by using the space in the city currently void, you enhance the city and make it vibrant. Again, the Liverpool example backs this up – the area where Scottie Road was, is now utterly desolate.
    Housing provision in Britain is “broken”, and on a monumental scale. In the face of this it is easy to panic and to be swept along with the glib talk of the property developers who are right now eyeing the main chance. But these people are hucksters, shysters. Take their propaganda; for example, about how little the impact of rural development will be. (Which you quote) ‘Only’ 11% of land area in the UK is developed. Maybe, if you include the large tracts of semi wilderness in my Mother country, Scotland. But I don’t think they are planning to build there. They have their monetising eyes on the South East which is well over 20% developed. And the “footprint” of urban development extends beyond the actual plot on which the building rests. A good example of projective blight is the Amex Stadium which bears down on sight lines when walking, as far as Ditchling beacon.
    The countryside isn’t just my backdoor – it is everyone’s back door; it’s our ‘Commons’ which we must defend, strongly. The green belt movement of the 40’s and 50’s , like the mass Trespass Movement of the 30’s was part of a radical tradition harking back to the resistance to the enclosures of the 16th and subsequent centuries. Land grabs by the rich are nothing new. Don’t encourage them

    • Hi John, of course we must prioritise brown field sites, but that won’t be anywhere enough. I do agree with you about not allowing land to go to private speculators. I have argued that 80% should be used for social housing, housing for rent at social rents not so-called ‘affordable rents’ which are nothing like affordable. As for the 11% figure, it is England and Wales, not Scotland. I disagree with you about the Amex. When I was a councillor in the late 1980s I opposed the development of that site for commercial development. I was heavily criticised at the time. With hindsight I am pleased I did oppose it otherwise we wouldn’t have the wonderful stadium. One last thing, anyone living in Brighton or Lewes or any other town or city should remember that where we live was once common land, green fields and open landscape. Thanks, as always, for your comment. Andy

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