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Emoov boss tells Labour conference how to solve housing crisis

Emoov’s founder Russell Quirk has outlined how he would help Britain get out of its current housing crisis to a Labour party conference fringe meeting.

Quirk - who, as his Twitter followers may have realised, is not exactly a natural Labour supporter - nonetheless appeared on a platform with shadow housing secretary John Healey yesterday, giving a speech he has shared with Estate Agent Today.

In his speech, at an event organised by centre-left fringe group Progress, Quirk echoed the long-stated assessment that housing supply is broken.

“Over decades, successive governments and local authorities have ignored the land that they control on their own door-steps and, in parallel, have also allowed developers to exert a conversely profitable choke-hold on housing provision” he said. 

He told delegates that volume housebuilders, understandably, had as their sole mission the financial interests of shareholders, but that this had catastrophic economic and societal consequences - especially as 15 major builders controlled much of housing supply.

“It is my considered view that by far the greatest problem is that we have allowed ourselves to place almost all housebuilding into the hands of just a few, private, housing development companies” he said.

“The solution is to re-think the way that dwellings are delivered and, to some extent, how land is identified and sourced - particularly public land. And that means stepping around the housebuilders that are the obstacles to providing sufficient housing for current and future generations.”

Specifically, Quirk’s big idea was Help To Build - the government creating its own housebuilding organisation, “owned by the tax-payer and run as a private housebuilder.”

He told the meeting: “The government would be the sole shareholder of the special purpose vehicle on behalf of the tax payer. The management team would predominantly hail from the private sector. A ‘C-Suite’ with private sector experience that would be given the freedom to run things as a proper business with the sole goal to execute on the strategy of providing the right housing in the right places. Not profit per se.” 

Quirk said the government building firm’s remit would be to meet a five year plan of housing supply using public sector land, ensuring that each development was targeted within geographic areas that were most in need. 

There would be private housing “to support local need and to soak up natural demand…allowing younger generations to live in the areas that they had grown up in” and social housing “created on a needs basis rather than on what might be the minimum a developer could get away with.”

He would also have categories of Build To Rent, shared ownership, rent-to-buy, and traditional council and housing association properties. 

He says that whilst unblocking land ownership bottlenecks was vital, it was only part of the issue. 

“We have to go further than simply unlocking this land. We must bypass the biggest bottleneck in providing current and future generations with adequate accommodation, and that is in the shape of the housebuilders themselves” he added. 

His speech concluded: “Help to Build is not intended to replace the big housebuilders. They are, in my book, free to peddle their wares as they do now. But it is my contention that the issue of housing supply cannot solely rest with them and the restricted volumes that they engineer. Adding 100,000 additional dwellings to the current tally of completions each year is beyond them but it is not beyond the availability of existing resource. Nor is it beyond the will of those with an innovative mind that will back my somewhat radical plan.”

Poll: Is Russell right? Would a taxpayer-funded house builder help supply?

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    If I’ve understood that right he is simply suggesting a return to the days when the council built houses. Most council houses have that obvious look about them but they were solidly built. One of the biggest crimes ever was the transferring of council houses to housing associations and the other was allowing tenants to buy them at reduced prices. My family benefited from buying a council house but I don’t agree with it. Finally why has the likes of Thames Water teamed up to sell land to the Berkeley Group? If the council still built houses, that land could have gone to them

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