Property is a high-status political issue — we should enter the debate
Property is going to be the big issue at the next election. A whole range of organisations are now in a bidding war to outdo each other regarding the extent of the housing shortage.
For instance, The Chartered Institute of Building believes there will be a one million house shortfall by 2022. The stated number of 300,000 new homes needed per year is supported by the Royal Institute of British Architects, Westminster policy think tanks and trade bodies working in and around housing — but how we get there is another matter.
Infrastructure spending is one key issue that is not so clearly articulated or costed. The roads, drainage, telecoms and power of a city the size of Nottingham need to be created every year for the next seven years to solve this issue.
Then there’s the skills issue. Construction is one of the few remaining labour-driven sectors. Unless people are properly skilled, they cannot build. The industry lost almost 400,000 people during the recession and another 400,000 are due to retire over the next five years. This will and is affecting costs, margins and supply. The latest official data showed the number of bricklayers claiming jobseeker’s allowance has dropped to its lowest level in at least a decade, with construction wages up by an annual 4% in July as demand has grown.
Elsewhere, councils in England plan to redevelop £13.5bn of their assets over the next five years. However, it is clear that at least some planning authorities see development schemes as potential cash cows — a means of subsidising other services.
And of course, planning remains an issue. The Home Builders Federation estimates up to 150,000 homes with outline planning permission are now stuck in the planning system awaiting final permission to start.
Property is a bellwether topic that will shape the next election and we are in pole position to fashion the argument on the next government’s housing policy. We should take our chance and enter the debate to bring some sanity to those making the decisions — and we should do it well before next May.
Richard Steer is Chairman of Gleeds Worldwide.
Opinion piece first published in Property Week on 28th November 2014.