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Senior agents say wider issues must be addressed in housing debate

An estate agent and former chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors says the government’s latest drive to build new homes is welcome, but must look at wider issues than just those concerning planning.

In recent days Prime Minister Theresa May and Housing Secretary Sajid Javid have been outspoken in their criticism of developers who sit on land without building, and on council planners that fail to identify building land or fail to give consent to new housing schemes. 

However, leading London estate agent Jeremy Leaf says while the politicians’ interest in the homes issue  is welcome, their concentration on planning addresses only part of the problem.

“There is a whole range of other issues that need to be addressed if we are going to make a real difference to supply and the cost of buying as well as renting. In particular, attention needs to be paid to lending, planning, enforcement and better use of existing resources, especially local authority land” he says.

“It makes sense to take advantage of the narrowest gap, certainly I have seen, in aspiration and ideology between the two main parties. The need for more supply of affordable homes, faster delivery and more efficient planning are issues both main parties agree upon. More apolitical longer-term solutions must be found so we are much more likely to see results rather than just talk” Leaf adds.

Meanwhile Humberts’ head of land and new homes, Adam Phelps, said the government moves were in the right direction but he required action, not just words. 

“Releasing rural land would be a positive, but the government are yet to outline how and when planning regulations will be relaxed. The real issue is the release of public sector land which could be a game changer for the supply of homes across the UK along with making shared ownership a serious choice helping to re balance the market. Home ownership still remains a real goal but to make this realistic the market must offer a greater degree of choice turning what may be a pipe dream in to reality” he said.

The chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents also welcomed the comments by May and Javid and warned it would be a “slow process” for house building rates to be improved. 

“Our monthly housing market report showed demand for housing boomed in January, creating competition among buyers and causing the number of sales to first time buyers to drop. It looks like those trying to get their first foot on the property ladder are in for tough year” Mark Hayward added.

Yesterday the Prime Minister blamed planners and developers for a situation whereby "in much of the country, housing is so unaffordable that millions of people who would reasonably expect to buy their own home are unable to do so".

As part of her plans to "restore the dream of home ownership" she told developers that their past record - whether they built on land with consent, and whether they built rapidly - could count against them when they seek future planning permissions.

May also criticised "the bonuses paid to the heads of some of our biggest developers [which] are based not on the number of homes they build but on their profits or share price" - a reference to a recent controversy involving Persimmon Homes.

"I want to see planning permissions going to people who are actually going to build houses, not just sit on land and watch its value rise," she said.

Poll: Will government pressure on planners help the housing crisis?

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