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Jonathan Rolande: A missed opportunity on housing

I listened carefully, and I even played it back afterwards. 

But, even now, I remain astonished by what I didn’t hear. 

On Wednesday, in his keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference, Rishi Sunak stood up to set out his vision for the country. 


The Prime Minister spoke for an hour in the end, but he didn’t use a single word to explain how he will fix Britain’s property crisis. 

Actually he did mention housing. 

Towards the end, as he was building up to his big finale, he explained how “he wanted a Britain where all young people could aspire to own their own home”. 

Great, I thought - here we go. 

But that was it. No detail. No plan. No roadmap setting out a destination to this utopian land where a young person can dream again of having the keys to their own home. 

It was crushingly disappointing. I say this not just as someone who works in the property sector but as a father too. 

I’ve got more than three decades under my belt in the property sector. But I’m afraid it has probably now never been tougher to purchase a home as a first time buyer.

A first timer looking to purchase today versus say two years ago will find that their mortgage is around £500 a month more than it was. 

And yet many are still buying, in fact volumes of first time buyers are around 80% of their peak in 2022 up to the time of the Truss Budget which saw the end of cheap interest rates. Many are being encouraged to do so by falling prices, while soaring rents is also prompting large numbers of people to save to buy rather than become tenants. 

But the harsh reality is that housing supply simply isn't there to meet the level of demand for affordable housing. Many of the biggest property building companies are also dramatically cutting back the level of new builds they plan to roll out in the coming years. 

According to one of the most recent reports in this area, the problem is only going to get worse. Glenigan's latest Housing Pipeline report says 2,456 sites received permission during Q2 this year - a 10% decrease against the previous and 20% down on a year ago.

The number of homes approved during Q2 2023 also dropped 16% on the previous quarter to 62,681, reflecting a 13% slide against Q2 2022. According to the data, this is the lowest quarterly number of permissioned homes since 2015, leaving aside Q2 2020 which was impacted by Covid shutdowns. 

It means housing supply could fall to record low levels in the coming years. That's why we desperately need a plan and vision from the Government on how they are going to address the lack of supply. 

This week was an opportunity for the Prime Minister to put housing front and centre of his roadmap towards an election victory in a year's time. But Rishi missed the chance and he also missed the point which is this. For Britain to truly grow, we all need somewhere to call home.



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