10% of UK land is developed
9% of land is protected in national parks
12% as the green belt
15% as areas of outstanding natural beauty
46% of new homes are flats post COVID people want a house not flats
Home ownership fell from 73% to 63% over the decade to 2016 and has not yet recovered.
* on average since 2010.
UK population is rising by 1% a year
Decades of under investment mean that we need annually to build at least
A survey commissioned by UK TV Gold questioning 1,500 young voters aged 20 to 30 found that the spiralling price of housing was by far their biggest concern dwarfing immigration, the NHS or even education.
In 1947 house building was "nationalised" through the Town and Country Planning Act. The result has been a disastrous descent from a nation that was admired and envied world wide for its domestic architecture - classic Georgian squares and Victorian terraces in towns and in the countryside cottages, to a producer of some of the worst yet most expensive housing in the world.
With houses being built at 10 or more to the acre, young families are being denied decent gardens. We talk about preserving green fields for our grandchildren but wouldn't most children prefer a garden outside their back door to a green field (probably ploughed up with a "KEEP OUT" sign) 5 miles away only reachable after a 20 minute, environmentally unfriendly, drive?
As a result of the ban on spacious houses with gardens, increasing numbers of people are living, for example, in a Government dictated tiny flat but then buying a spacious house abroad in, say, Spain. A 2006/07 Survey of English Housing reported that the number of English households with second homes abroad has more than doubled from 115,000 in 1996/97 to 248,000 in 2006/07 and subsequent estimates, at the time of the BREXIT vote, indicated a further doubling to some 500,000 in 2016. Others spend little leisure time in their inadequate home preferring to get out and drive to the cinema or shopping centre and go on holiday abroad. The resultant environmental damage being caused by driving and by air travel at weekends and for holidays is becoming a very serious problem.
Local opponents of new housing, including NIMBYs, (Not In My Back Yard) are easily recruited and rallied to the "Stop It" campaign. In addition "I'm all right Jacks", typically the late middle aged and retired who bought their now hugely valuable properties cheaply many years ago, have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. This section of the population often has plenty of time available to fight new housing through organisations such as the CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England).
In contrast the struggling young families and first time buyers who would benefit hugely from the new housing are often out at work full time paying off crippling mortgages or are busy looking after their children and so have little time to campaign. Most importantly they are often not local and are therefore almost impossible to identify and marshal to campaign in favour of the new housing. Take, for example a family currently living, say, in London with one child but, unknown to them, moving in two years time with a new baby to a new job in Oxford. They have no idea that they, as potentially family No. 5 in an 8 property housing chain at that time will only be able to move to their next house if a new house at the top of the chain is able to be built, say, in Kent. Voices that would be strongly in favour of the life-changing new housing in Kent are impossible to identify, may well not yet be born, and therefore cannot be consulted and are effectively dis-enfranchised on a matter of enormous importance to them. The odds are stacked heavily in favour of the antis and in no way reflect the benefits of proposed new housing with the result that our planning system has consistently hugely under-delivered the quality new housing we both require and could have.
If we were to allocate an additional 2% of land to housing within a few years we could totally transform our standard of housing.
The death of good new housing over the last 50 years means that there is a huge pent up demand resulting in market prices being both a record multiple of the actual build cost and a record multiple of average earnings. Because we are prepared to pay more for a roof over our heads than at any time in history, we have an opportunity to create outstanding domestic architecture to rival and even better the best that our ancestors achieved. Our descendants would be able to add early 21st Century domestic architecture to the achievements of the best Georgian and Victorian architects in contrast to the shameful new housing of the last half century.
Some 90% of the UK is not built on, yet listening to the authorities and even the media you would think that we were rapidly running out of land. It is because we have built so many houses along busy roads that, as we drive around, we get the impression of over-crowding. Go onto Google Earth and you will be amazed at how little land is built on.
Alarmist talk of "concreting over our countryside" and similar scarmongery is totally misleading and in any event the bio-diversity of leafy suburbs with good gardens is often much greater than that of land given over to agriculture.
One new house at the top of the housing ladder will enable, say, 8 families down the chain all to move up into better homes and at the bottom a "starter home" will drop out and be released to the market for a first time buyer. Just one quality new house could result therefore in 8 households in the chain being better housed, the UK housing stock upgraded, not downgraded and less pressure to add inappropriate and often ugly extensions onto existing houses. In contrast one new 'affordable' home on an inappropriatly located brownfield site will not only downgrade our housing stock but only, at best, make one small household happy but even that is questionable.
Whilist EU member states still provide a large skilled and motivated workforce willing and able to work in the UK construction industry we have a window of opportunity to make a serious impact in improving our housing stock.
In summary we have the money, the workforce and the land to build the homes we aspire to - let's ensure that the politicians don't deny us the chance to achieve those housing dreams.
By joining this campaign for better housing you will help give a voice to the currently silent mass of people who are desperate for a better home. The CPRE has approximately 60,000 members. This tiny membership has enabled it to become a "Statutory Consultee" in the local authority planning decision making process. This gives a powerful voice to those who, intentionally or otherwise, have helped strangle quality new housing. If betterhomes4all.org can achieve a similar or greater membership then we should qualify for equivalent "Statutory Consultee" status and have our own public voice.Add Your Voice
Local Authorities are only human and prefer an easy life. If the NIMBYs kick up a fuss then the planners will be tempted to decline a planning application. However if the Councils income is made in part dependent on the granting of planning consents then they will have a strong motivation to approve an application. Currently Section 106 agreements often require a developer to commit to some locally beneficial project (e.g. a new leisure centre) in exchange for being granted planning permission. This crude barter system is not universally applied and rarely, if ever, catches the full worth of a very valuable planning consent.
Local Authorities must be empowered to acquire land suitable for housing compulsorily (if compulsion is OK for the controversial HS2 then it's surely all the more justifiable to solve our desperate housing crisis?). Price paid would be, say, up to a 50% increase over the existing use value (e.g. £15k per acre up from £10k agricultural value). Planning permission would then be granted on the land and it would then be auctioned off to private house self builders and larger developers with a, say, 3 year "build by" requirement. The huge planning gain profits (at least £10 billion per annum) could then be used both to reduce the central grant to Councils (Happy Chancellor of the Exchequer!) and to build the required infrastructure - roads, schools, hospitals etc. It could even help to compensate any NIMBYs genuinely disadvantaged.
Short term, George Osborne was on the right track partially restricting tax deductibility on buy-to-let but he didn't go far enough. The Government should quickly phase out all interest deductibility on buy-to-lets, not just higher rate over several years, but to compensate he should immediately reduce CGT on buy-to-let properties to, say, 10% precipitating a flood of sensibly priced properties onto the market for generation rent to buy. The resulting CGT collection bonus would not come amiss further reducing the deficit in addition to the bonus from the lower central grant needed by to local authorities.
With such policies we could soon be building 2 or 3 times our current rate of construction and spacious quality homes sensibly located would, with dramatically increased supply, become affordable once again. We did it in the 1930's, the Victorians did it before then so why can't our generation make a contribution to our housing stock that we can all be proud of.
As was loudly demonstrated at the recent Chesham and Amersham by-election, the NIMBYs are a force to be reckoned with Auctioning land with planning consents would generate very substantial funds - it is estimated more than £10 billion per annum! For example even a village building 10 new houses could easily raise £500,000 by auctioning consents. The Council could allocate a part of the money to the local community e.g. a new sports centre or playground or pub/village shop or even a potentially very popular reduction in the Council Tax! In addition, if the new houses were well designed, built of quality local materials and attractively landscaped e.g. on a new town square or village green, then the objections understandably directed at proposals to build low quality little boxes 10 to the acre would be substantially reduced and local support might be generated.
Above all spread the word that resolving the housing crisis is not rocket science - its just a question of politics. As proposed above, the Government should enable local Councils to acquire land suitable for housing compulsorily. Again, if Compulsory Purchase Orders ("CPOs") can be justified for HS2 which has questionable merit, then how much more justifiable CPOs would be for our desperately needed housing?
In conclusion please help stimulate a constructive debate, promote the betterhomes4all Campaign and, fortified by a strong membership, lobby the Government to introduce more enlightened, bolder common-sense housing policies with a planning regime more favourable to greatly increased quantities of new quality housing.
Do you know of local examples of quality housing that has been refused or new housing that is either inadequate or is poorly located?
Do you have friends or relations who have left the UK either because they couldn't afford a decent home or (increasingly) because children had put pressure on the parents/grandparents to sell the overpriced UK home and move to a cheaper home in, say, Spain, and give some of the money raised to help the next generation onto the otherwise unaffordable UK housing ladder?
If you have any examples of the damage being done by our overpriced housing together with any constructive ideas that you may have to improve the situation please contact us using the form opposite.
We believe everyone has the right to own a spacious, quality home. We need to unite and put pressure on the government to make sure this happens. With only 1% of the UK's land developed for homes there is scope to build more without impacting on the countryside. If you are struggling to afford a larger home or struggling to even get on the housing ladder then you need to add your voice to our campaign.