Study by influential think-tank aims to demolish ’myths’ promoted by backbench Tories opposed to development

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Four former Conservative housing ministers have backed a report from the right of centre think the Centre for Policy Studies which makes the case for a big increase in housing supply – and for building on greenfield as well as brownfield land.

Prior housing ministers Sajid Javid, Brandon Lewis, Simon Clarke and Kit Malthouse have all put their name behind the report, which says it seeks to “demolish” current “myths” about housebuilding that are behind the recent retreat of the government on planning rules.

Publication of the report, which argues that high house prices are caused by undersupply of homes, that brownfield land alone cannot supply enough land for the homes we need, and that housebuilding is more popular with the public than commonly believed, follows a major U-turn by the government on planning rules after a backbench rebellion over housing targets.

The report has been authored by CPS researcher Elizabeth Dunckley and Alex Morton, formerly David Cameron’s advisor on housing policy. Dunkley said it came to one simple, indisputable conclusion, that “Britain needs to build more houses[…]. To do otherwise is to court economic, social and increasingly political disaster.

She said that without a step up in housebuilding, Britain will be a “less productive, less equal, less fair and less happy country.” Housing Today’s A Fair Deal for Housing campaign is calling for the government to re-commit to its 300,000 homes-a-year manifesto pledge and is working to develop potential solutions to make this achievable.

Simon Clarke MP

Simon Clarke MP, secretary of state for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in Liz Truss’ short-lived administration (pictured, right), said the report was a “hugely important and timely paper” and said it “explodes many of the comforting myths around housebuilding - most notably that there is any realistic possibility of our building the homes we need on brownfield sites alone.”

Sajid Javid MP, the secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government between 2016 and 2018 who brought in local housing targets, said: “For decades, we have simply not built enough homes. This failure risks creating a generation that without any capital of its own, becomes resentful of capitalism and capitalists.”

The report comes after the current secretary of state, Michael Gove, in December capitulated to backbench rebels concerned about local housing targets by setting out proposals to amend national planning policy to make it clear that local councils have much more flexibility not to meet local housing targets, and don’t have to review green belt land or take on their neighbours’ undersupply.

>> See also Gove’s retreat into Nimbyism spells political trouble for the Tories

>> See also: The Gove who stole Christmas: Why planning backdown will have a huge impact

CPS director Robert Colvile had at the time called the rebels’ demands “selfish” and “wicked”.


Sajid Javid said the failure to build enough homes risked ‘creating a generation without any capital of its own’

The CPS report, titled “The Case for Housebuilding”, argues that new supply has been running at about half the rate of the peak in the last two decades, despite the fact the population is growing much more quickly. It shows that the cost of housing has been rising hugely for both homeowners and renters, with private renters in London now spending an average of almost 40% of their income on rent, compared to a national average of 10% of income in the 1960s.

This evidence about rent, it says, is part of the reason why thinkers such as Ian Mulheirn from the Tony Blair Institute, who have argued in recent years that the buying up of private housing and their use as financial assets have distorted the market but that supply of homes isn’t insufficient, are “simply wrong”, it says. “Supply remains crucial both to house prices and home ownership levels”, it says.

The report adds that while “a consensus appears to have taken hold among Conservative Party politicians that we can build the homes we need solely on brownfield land, preferably outside the South East of England”, levels of brownfield land are “insufficient”, with only four years supply from all current land if used immediately and at once.

In addition, it says most brownfield land is not located in the right places, and because it is more expensive to develop, tends to slow delivery rates, to an average of 83 homes per annum versus 128 on greenfield.

The report also says that the argument that homebuilding is keeping pace with household formation is circular and “fundamentally flawed”, as household formation is constrained by the fact that young adults can’t afford to leave their parents’ homes to create new households in the first place.

A Fair Deal for Housing campaign 

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Housing Today believes the government should not back away from its manifesto pledge of building 300,000 new homes a year by the middle of the decade. We badly need more homes and a lack of supply is a major factor in creating problems of affordability for both buyers and renters.

Over the next few months, Housing Today will be exploring potential solutions to help us ramp up housebuilding to 300,000. These are likely to, include different ways of working, funding asks of government and policy ideas that could boost housebuilding.

We want to hear from you: what do you think can make a difference at a policy level?

What can the industry do better?

We believe that, with the right commitments from ministers and the industry, it is possible to build more homes and help the government to meet its objectives to “build beautiful”, improve quality and safety, boost home ownership and level up the UK.

Click here to find out more about the campaign

To contribute ideas to our A Fair Deal for Housing Ideas Zone database, click here.

A Fair Deal for Housing is part of the Building the Future Commission.