HERE is one election prediction which can be made with confidence – the next government will miss its housebuilding target. After all, it is the failure of successive governments to preside over the construction of sufficient homes, to keep up with demand, which explains why the Tories and Labour are having to come up with, frankly, unattainable commitments.
This shortfall can be traced back to the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher’s government, in its pioneering ‘right to buy’ policy, made it possible for council house tenants to buy their own homes at discounted rates. A move which transformed the fortunes of families across the country, the problem came when local authorities were blocked from building replacement houses.
The consequence is a systemic shortage in social housing – a shortage compounded by sustained rises in property prices because the availability of new houses has not kept pace with increases in the country’s population and changing demographics as more single people look to acquire a home of their own. It is this perfect storm which helps to explain the frantic political promises now being made.
And while the belated recognition of the major parties should, in fairness, be recognised, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn have conveniently forgotten some basic issues like the availability of sufficient builders amid a national skills shortage; where they intend to build the promised properties given the resistance that large-scale schemes invariably receive from nearby communities and whether these homes will be flood-proofed from the outset.
Like so many issues in this election, the proposed policies will need much firmer foundations if sufficient homes are ever to be built to meet the needs of first-time buyers – or all those families who are still reliant on social housing for a roof over their heads.