19 Apr 2010
What the Leaders didn’t tell us…
So who else watched last night’s gladiatorial battle for survival on ITV? After a stilted start, a visibly nervous Gordon, Nick and David launched into fast-moving, heated debate covering domestic matters such as immigration, corruption in Westminster, law and order, education, communities and caring for our elderly.
Watching the interaction between these three political heavyweights was interesting to say the least. I lost count of the number of times Brown repeated “I agree with Nick” in an attempt to ally himself with Clegg, who in turn rejected the PM’s advances promoting the Lib Dems as the alternative to the “two old parties that have been playing pass the parcel with your government for 65 years”. Cameron attacked the Liberals on their allegedly illicit party funding. Brown mocked the Conservatives quipping “you can airbrush your posters but you cannot airbrush your policies”. However, within this pantomime of politics one of the UK’s most pressing issues was not discussed. The chronic housing shortage. Have they forgotten that families need family homes and in order to meet the country's CO2 reduction targets we need to build more energy-efficient homes? We need to be building homes of the future.
Since 2002 insufficient numbers of homes have been built in every region of the UK. To give you some idea of numbers and figures – last year only 70,000 modern homes were built in stark contrast with the current government’s requirement of 240,000 modern home starts each year by 2016. According to the National Housebuilding Federation a record 4.5m people are on housing waiting lists and a massive 2.5m people are living in overcrowded conditions within different communities across the country.
Regional housing targets are currently set by central government and, according to shadow housing minister Grant Shapps, this “house building-by-numbers policy” has “utterly failed”. The Conservatives therefore propose that national housing targets be abolished and power handed back to local authorities and communities to approve new modern developments of modern homes… already I can hear the shouts of “Not in my back yard!” resounding across the country. The Liberal Democrats support the Tories localism policy and also propose to give home owners cheap loans to renovate existing property. Labour are proposing to help 1st time buyers with a 2 year stamp duty holiday and increased mortgage availability but, with their track record of nine different housing ministers since 1998, can we have much faith in their ability to lead the housing industry out of these difficult times?
Despite a massive shortfall of housing we are building fewer modern homes than at any time since WW2. What’s really needed is increased housing delivery, which would not only provide hundreds of thousands of jobs and enough homes for our population but would also stimulate the economy. Housing issues affect every resident in every UK constituency – it’s time for our leaders to seriously consider more ways to kick start the housing market in their manifestos.