Robert Colvile says only a “big stick” from government will get enough homes built
The head of an influential right-leaning thinktank has called on the next prime minister to use a government ‘stick’ to ensure the building of new homes.
Robert Colvile, director of the Centre for Policy Studies, in a Sunday Times column yesterday, criticised Conservative Party leadership contenders Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss for their reluctance to commit to a plan to build large numbers of homes.
Truss has vowed to drop what she terms as ‘Stalinist’ house building targets despite the Conservatives having a manifesto pledge to build 300,000 homes a year by the middle of the decade. Sunak, meanwhile, has said he would stop housebuilding on the green belt.
However Colvile, a co-author of the 2019 Conservative manifesto, pointed out the Conservatives have pledged to build at least a million new homes in this parliament “in areas that really need them”.
He wrote: “The only thing that has been proven to get councils building homes is having central government stand over them with a big stick.
“And what Truss, Mordaunt and Sunak all promised is to replace that stick with a twig. Because that is what Tory MPs and councillors want — indeed, demand — to hear.
“The only candidate to be brutally explicit that we actually need to build new homes somewhere vaguely near where housing pressures are greatest was Sajid Javid. Not coincidentally, he crashed out of the race shortly afterwards.”
“She [Truss] and Sunak are still peddling the fantasy — you might almost call it a fairytale — that we can build the homes we need in places where no one will notice: in the north of England, or on derelict land in new “opportunity zones”, or somewhere, anywhere, that isn’t a green field in a Tory constituency.”
Housing Today’s A Fair Deal for Housing campaign is calling on the government to re-commit to its 300,000-home manifesto pledge.
Colvile said candidates in the Conservative party leadership contest have put out policies that “don’t just cater to the party’s nimby wing but put on a five-course banquet.”
He wrote: “She [Truss] and Sunak are still peddling the fantasy — you might almost call it a fairytale — that we can build the homes we need in places where no one will notice: in the north of England, or on derelict land in new “opportunity zones”, or somewhere, anywhere, that isn’t a green field in a Tory constituency.”
Colvile’s comments appear to have attracted the support of another influential right-leaning figure; Tim Montgomerie, founder of Conservative Home, who tweeted ‘terrific column’ in response to posts about Colvile’s piece.
Terrific column— Tim Montgomerie 🇬🇧 (@montie) July 31, 2022
The Centre for Policy Studies was founded by Margaret Thatcher, former cabinet minister Keith Joseph and journalist Alfred Sherman in 1974. It describes itself as Britain’s “leading centre-right thinktank” and seeks policies based on free markets and low taxation.
A Fair Deal for Housing
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.