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House building policy - Assembly crib notes
This was the original policy discussion document, which in turn was used for an Assembly motion in October 2015.

I have uploaded it here as it contains a lot of information for a better understanding of the housing market.



As the first in a series of policy discussion's, I'd like to start with a highly topical issue, that of the countries housing shortage, highlighting some of its causes, obsticles and potential solutions.

To meet an ever increasing demand for new homes, driven largely by demographic changes originating in an ageing population and more people wishing to live on their own, along with the natural retirement of older stock, we really need to be building over 225000 new homes annually in this country.

As a nation we haven't built a sustainable number of homes annualy for decades, the pre-recession high was 183000 and after recovering to 110000 in the period 2010 & 2011, it declined in 2012, before recovering again with an estimate of 89000 in the first 3 quarters of 2014.

The government has proposed building 100000 affordable homes, but this is a one off plan, when what we need is this number year on year almost indefinitely. Having failed to build a sustainable number of houses for so long, we have in fact built up a housing deficit of 1.5 millions homes which also needs to be taken into account.

It should be pointed out early on that there are in excess of 900000 empty homes in this coutry, but getting these back onto the market has provide almost imposisble, and doing so would have a major impact on the volume of new housing needed to meet our domestic needs.

The first issue is where should the new housing  be built, both on a regional and national basis. The economic boiler house of the south east is crying out for affordible homes for essential worker, but there is also demand across the nation, a proportion of which will be social housing, and not for working households.

I was unable to establish what proportion of new builds are 1, 2, or more bedrooms in size, although anindotal evidence potints to a steady decrease in 3 bedroom, but an increase in 4 or more. Parlimentary select committee's have frequently referred to a 35% target of affordible housing, which I take to be 1 or 2 bedroom.

As Liberals we value local decision making, but successive governments have seen local opposition to planning applications as an annoying inconvenience and made change to the process which give a presumption of approval, leaving communities with limited grounds to object to over-developments, infilling and the creation of conurbations.

It isn't being a NIMBY to object to thousands of home being paracheted into your neighbourthood, such as Enborne in the Nebwury area, or the Kennet Valley south of Reading, when concerns over access, transport, schools and GP surgeries has been brushed aside in the haste to submit the planning application.

The previous Labour governments flagship strategy was the South East Plan, 640000 homes in the South East by 2026, which saw counties allocated seeminly arbitary housing quotas, and obliging fast track public enquiries with limited scope to reject often unimaginative housing developments.

In any case having worked in the building trade its very likely the economy will find it impossible to sustain a domestic building program of this size without resorting to importing building materials from abroad. There were brick shortages during the last 'boom' and the cement industry has been seriously demished since the recession.

Then there is the issue of skilled labour. Despite the best endeavours of the construction industry to increase training, it will struggle to find enough workers as much of the workforce is transient, with people moving in and out of the industry, often never returning after a relativly short period of participation.

The obsticles to developing a national housing policy aggreeable to all are many, but a balanced approach to new build and restoration, a mimum 35% afforidible housing and the stimulation of regional development to take the pressure out of the south east all contribute to a sustaiable policy.

In the final analys though, a houseing policy doesn't need to be complicated. In the simplest form people just want somewhere affordible to live which they can call call home, and within a short travelling distance to work.

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