Home truths on housing policy

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THE problems affecting the housing market in Yorkshire have not emerged overnight. They are a direct legacy of the failure of successive governments to address fundamental inconsistencies. The county is certainly not unique in suffering from so-called “mixed markets”, with high demand areas where affordability is an issue sitting alongside those where demand is low on account of the standard 
of homes and their access to jobs.

THE problems affecting the housing market in Yorkshire have not emerged overnight. They are a direct legacy of the failure of successive governments to address fundamental inconsistencies. The county is certainly not unique in suffering from so-called “mixed markets”, with high demand areas where affordability is an issue sitting alongside those where demand is low on account of the standard 
of homes and their access to jobs.

Yet, by sheer virtue of its size and the variety of its topography, these contrasts are more pronounced in Yorkshire and have only grown sharper as a result of decades of little or no action. However it is clear, and has been for some time, that the greatest challenge lies in providing the number of new homes that are necessary in order to meet demand generally.

The scale of that challenge is underlined in today’s Home Truths report by the National Housing Federation, which warns that Yorkshire risks facing a shortfall of over 200,000 homes in less than two decades.

The consequences if those homes are not built are dire – and not just for first-time buyers who are already struggling to get on the housing ladder. A shortage of new entrants to the market will reduce the chances of homeowners further up the ladder moving on. That is not to say that they can built anywhere. There would be understandable outrage if large tracts of Yorkshire’s green belt were developed.

It is why private developers must first be directed to brown field sites and forced, by law, to increase their quota of affordable housing. After decades of inaction, the solution to this looming crisis will not appear overnight and will involve governments working with developers, landlords, planners and the rest of the housing sector over the long term. But it is a journey that must now be embarked upon, before it is too late.

Miliband’s flaws

Labour in the pocket of the Scots

SO MUCH for Ed Miliband promising to listen and learn following the most challenging month of his four-year reign as Labour leader. By vetoing all-party talks on constitutional change, and specifically the issue of “English votes for English laws” following the referendum on Scottish independence, the Doncaster North MP is playing into the hands of all those who are sceptical about his weak leadership.

This fit of pique, as Commons leader William Hague led a Parliamentary debate, stems from David Cameron seizing the political initiative and linking the devolution of new powers to Holyrood to new rights for English MPs in the immediate aftermath of the Scotland vote.

However Mr Miliband’s bluster, and attempt to kick the issue into the long grass by calling for a constitutional convention that will take years to conclude, masks the fact that Labour can only win the next election – and then pass its legislative programme – with the support of its Scottish MPs.

Given the scale of the democratic deficit, a sensible leader would have acknowledged this imbalance and then consented to take part in the first round of negotiations at the very least, rather than crying foul from the sidelines. For the record, it is not just Tory MPs who believe that the Scots exert too much influence on English affairs – Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman is among those who are opposed to a blank cheque being handed over to Holyrood when the policy needs of the North are just as meritorious. Is Ed Miliband suggesting that England’s taxpayers deserve second-class MPs? After all, that is what his flawed policy position amounts to.

PM is out of focus

Self-serving or self-important?

DAVID CAMERON is hardly in a position to criticise people obsessed with “selfies”. He, after all, is the Prime Minister who famously posed for a picture with Barack Obama and Neil Kinnock’s daughter-in-law Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Danish premier, in a rather undignified sideshow to Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

He also knows that he cannot turn a blind eye to the age of the selfie on the eve of a general election in which the influence of social media is likely to be as important as the three TV debates between the party leaders that have just been announced by the major broadcasters.

Yet it should not preclude the Prime Minister from encouraging mobile phone users to be more respectful of politicians and celebrities as people become more audacious – even the Queen has not been able to escape this craze. Unless there is a degree of decorum, the consequence is likely to be politicians – and also celebrities – becoming even more remote from their followers.