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UK housing market, long-term thinking

The UK housing market has been in disarray for some time. There are many contributing factors to this but one stands above the rest and that is the fact we do not have a long-term housing plan. What we do have is Governments coming and going, implementing short-term, often politically motivated, quick wins that focus primarily on home buyers – in particular first-time buyers.

We have been calling on the Government for some time to carry out a full, root and branch review of UK housing with the goal of developing a plan that enables policies to be implemented over a 20 to 30 year period. No Government has managed to tackle the crucial issue of supply and we simply need to build more homes to cater for the growth in population.

One way of tackling the inconsistency in housing policy would be the creation of an independent body for housing that sits outside of the Government. They would be charged with reviewing the market and determining what measures are needed to meet the needs of home owners, private tenants, social tenants and the homeless – rather than various political parties who tend to develop policies on vote-winning merit.

It is interesting to see new London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s proposals to tackle the housing crisis in London. We do agree there needs to be some kind of intervention in the level of foreign investment in the capital. So many developments are sold to foreign investors who see London as a safe haven and property as an attractive store of wealth. There is no guarantee these properties will be occupied, perhaps ever or for only a few weeks a year. It is therefore no surprise local communities feel resentful and poorly served by a market, where a proportion of the homes being built in the capital are not available to those people who so desperately need a quality home to buy or rent.

There are many complex issues that lie at the heart of the housing market, but crucially I believe the need for a full and frank review of what is required from our housing market to meet a growing variety of need is the top priority. Only when we have a well-thought out, long-term plan are we going to go some way in tackling the shortage of quality, affordable housing across all of the housing tenures.

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