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Help to buy...right to buy

As the election looms ever closer and the political parties’ manifestos see the light of day, we can take a closer look at the pledges they have all made to solve the housing crisis that we are told we face.

We are all agreed about the need to help first time buyers, be they those who seek affordable housing, shared ownership, or those who have raised a serious deposit to obtain a mortgage.

Help to buy

The debate has moved from help to buy to the right to buy, but the main issue remains; there are simply not enough houses available. 

Having compelled local authority councils to sell their stock to tenants in the 1980s and now pledging to make housing associations sell their stock to their tenants, perhaps the Tories are doing their bit. However, the shortage of housing stock has been exacerbated, because councils were not compelled to build new homes to replace the stock which was sold and now housing associations, if indeed they do offer tenants the right to buy, may also not re-build at a sufficient rate. We are told by RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) that, since the original right to buy programmes of the 1980s, local  councils’ building programmes have resulted in only 10% of the required stock being built, resulting in a 90% shortfall.

But why should the house building programme fall only to the public and social sector? Why not compel the supermarkets and other commercial property owners to build on their huge landbanks that they are hogging? Or, for that matter, financial institutions; the big life offices that own huge amounts of commercial land. Or is it the whole planning process? We heard recently of a proposed housing development held up awaiting a bat survey in May (when the bats have woken up and got their act together). Why raise this? Because everyone is of the view that there are no bats……….Or is it the “not in my back yard” people who seem to object to everything? Time they held less sway……??

By Alan Noel-Baker

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