Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The housing thing

I think it is good to debate the "affordable" housing issue. At the start of this posting let me make a small declaration of interest as I am a planning officer (MRTPI), and part of my varied work includes affordable housing issues. I will also make clear that I think Labour's policy initiatives have helped move us forward.

I will start from a general assumption that most people would like to find solutions to the issues surrounding affordable housing. I then post (for debate) some ideas as follows, it hopefully shows I am open to ideas and ready to listen to debate :

a) So let's really kick off with some controversy -Those requiring solutions will include the developers/builders as it is not in their interest to see increasing numbers, of reasonably paid people, disconnected from the market. Some market adjustment - partly driven by policy - may result from market influence itself, (controversy 2 - is this the new Labour part of me ?)

b) Promoting demand side solutions alone (like Plaid's means tested 5k grant) is not a sensible solution given the restrictions on supply. Has anyone seen the means tests yet please ???? Estate agents must be rubbing their hands in joy.
(is this the economist bit of me ?)

c) Increasing supply will sometimes require some strong decisions in the face of NIMBY pressures,
(I speak with the planner bit of me-don't assume people welcome housing that involves affordable housing as I feel many now fear vital social housing element of affordable housing),

d) Changes to Assembly policy mean councils now already have a right to influence the mix of new development, negotiate/ require affordable housing where evidence supports action
(the planning bit of me),

e) I don't see blanket application of "locals only" policies as a sensible solution. However I read existing Assembly policy as allowing the case to be made, in certain areas, and these policies should now be used to best effect by councils. I fear people are so busy complaining they haven't read/implemented what we now have.
(the 'read/use what you have already got' bit of me)

f) in our hearts some of us would like to see a council house building programme but in our heads see no appetite on the doorstep to stump up the tax levels required (the Labour/union bit of me tempered by doorstep reality)

g) In rural areas the debate about a few people fortunate to own/obtain a plot can be a real distraction from the real issues : do rural communities want to develop the level of housing that might transform the age structure and help retain services,

h) How many of those making voiciferous complaints have used the property boom of the last 10 years to invest in further homes, buy to let and various other schemes that have restricted the supply ? (the hint of hypocrisy in me).

i) As an Assembly candidate I would be interested in using my experience (of parts of the system) to help tackle this problem.

I think Labour's manifesto and policies help in this challenge - but perhaps a new post war "homes for heroes" spirit is required - and I don't beleive "homes for locals" is anywhere near an equivalent campaign.

So what is the equivalent 21st century slogan ???? - Comments welcome.


Cymro said...

Well Martin, that is fair enough - demand side solutions never work alone. But in the short-term, they make sense as sorting out the supply issue does take quite a bit of time. So that £5K grant from Plaid Cymru is a good starter.

In the longer-term you do need to sort out the supply side - but I doubt a good plan is something you can create overnight. I agree wholeheartedly on the NIMBY issue. But, given that sustainability and so forth is becoming an issue, local only may be the only sensible solution? As for taxation, it will need to rise - Plaid Cymru or Labour, a socialist can't advocate a low-tax economy.

I think you need to work out a careful plan, although anybody who claims to be a socialist will agree with the goal.

Alwyn ap Huw said...

You don't appear to have "links" enabled on your site, Martin.

However here is a link to this post

Miserable Old Fart: Houses and Homes

Cymro said...

Martin, just as an afterthought to what I said earlier, do you have any ideas yet? You disagree with the 5K grant, although I think it is a good idea for the short term by Plaid Cymru.

But I think we both agree on the need for a solution encompassing demand and supply side solutions - what is your idea for a supply side strategy?

Cymro said...

Sorry Martin, but I forgot to tell you that Plaid Cymru do have policies to tackle the NIMBY issue you raise, the new build of affordable houses and the turning of local housing into holiday homes. Labour have their own ideas on this, but I think that you are portraying Plaid as having demand side policies only, which is not true. But anyway, back to the discussion.

Martin Eaglestone said...

The manifesto commits to extra funding for affordable homes. Given our society's general resistance to tax rises ("I pay too much/enough thank you" etc on the doorstep) then I feel we must use the market, and existing planning powers more effectivly.

Politics is the art of the possible and I do not see the "locals only" approach as a solution - although I read current policies a allowing some element of local provision for housing need.

ps has anyone yet worked out what the means test is on the 5k ?

Cymro said...

In reply for the postscript, I think the plan is for the grant to be non-means tested - in keeping with the fact that universal benefits and subsidies have a better take-up. The plan is to give a maximum of £5K which is based on a pound for pound saving for three years prior to the grant.

I agree that locals only is a difficult point. But I'm just raising the general point here, that all parties will need to discuss soon - in an era when sustainability and lowering carbon emissions becomes important, measures to support local life may be becoming important. Do you have any ideas here?

Extra funding is important but it will take a while to address supply side issues, so maybe a demand side solution is necessary in the short term. Taxation is a difficult issue, of course, but in the year where inequality is at its highest since 1961, maybe a bit more redistribution is necessary? As for using the market, I agree to some extent - but the danger is that you stop using the market and the market starts using you. The Labour party in Westminster have lost that control on a few occassions! How do you think you would stop that in Cardiff?

Martin Eaglestone said...

Now I think this is good debate and far better than cut and paste.

Will return to topic later.

Cymro said...

I agree with that, although I think the issues mentioned in the cut and paste were important. Now we can move on.

Martin Eaglestone said...

Have given some time to consider issue and still not convinced the demand side response is sensible. My views may be influenced by living in Gwynedd where some seem obsessed by a "locals only" approach.

I think the key must be supply side. Not unlimited development but a sensible increase in various types of properties in various areas.

Cymro said...

I agree that a supply side approach is key, but the first lesson of microeconomics is that this approach can only taken in the long term. I think all sensible parties discuss dealing with supply in their manifesto.

But I think that approaching demand side is necessary in the short term - although a group of economists could debate this forever, without consensus!

As for a locals only approach, I think the scope of discussion is a bit limited right now, but I think everyone would agree that people should be able to live near where they grew up, should they choose to, and not be forced away by market forces.

Martin Eaglestone said...

and the planner bit in me suggests that the policy guidance releaed last year now allows for that to happen in a portion of new development -using evidence to shape the policy.

Councils neeed to actively apply the policy and there are some interesting examples of cascade agreements being applied by groups like Tai Eryri to accommodate the new policy framework.