Ministers must take long-term, difficult decisions to boost housebuilding

Matthew Bailes photo 4

Ministers can secure A Fair Deal for Housing by limiting house price inflation, reforming housing taxation and using compulsory purchase powers to capture land value uplift for affordable housing, writes Matthew Bailes

7 July 2022 will be remembered as the day on which Boris Johnson bowed to the inevitable and announced his resignation.

No doubt many of us spent the day keeping an eye on the bizarre spectacle of the government imploding. While this was darkly entertaining, we’d have got a much better insight into the future path of British politics had we spent the day reading the Office for Budget Responsibility’s report on fiscal risks and sustainability – which happened to be published on 7 July and as a result got relatively little coverage.

The report makes gloomy reading. A combination of factors – for example, the existing stock of public debt, an aging population, the costs of de-carbonisation and managing climate change, the loss of carbon-related taxes and the need for increased defence spending (against the backdrop of enhanced security threats) – together mean that government borrowing is on a hopelessly unsustainable trajectory (from a deeply uncomfortable 90% of GDP now to an untenable 250% of GDP in 50 years’ time).

The coming decades will therefore inevitably entail very hard choices on tax and spend.

I very much support Housing Today’s A Fair Deal for Housing campaign, but if it is to succeed we need to come up with ideas that are consistent with the imperative to manage the country’s finances. That means there is premium on policies that reduce public expenditure – or even better help raise money for the Exchequer.

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