I was surprised to see Zoe Williams writing about housing in the Guardian today. It turns out that she was at one stage thinking about writing a book on housing supply issues, particularly quality. She takes a critical look at the various manifesto policies/aspirations on housing delivery and their sheer vagueness on delivery mechanisms.
…no sense of how to enforce better quality, how to make developers care, what to do about land costs, or what better planning looks like (for instance, would it be more centralised or more devolved?). What is an ambitious, pro-development local authority? One whose ambitions are to sell its land to developers for private homes? Or one that is developing its own land for the housing of its own residents? This is more than strategically ambiguous: it is completely opaque. Likewise, those 160,000 homes built by government – in private partnerships? Or are they going to insource construction? And who would those homes be for?
Whilst prevailing political motivations for housing supply increases have shifted from Keynesian stimulus, to productivity enhancer, to simple electoral pressure, it’s remained a ‘wicked’ problem. Some of my former colleagues from UCL have been looking at the planning deregulation involved in permitting the change of use from office to residential. Their initial anecdotes are consistent with press reports of some shockingly low quality housing.