At the start of February, Nationwide suggested that the housing market was picking up. Last week, RICS reported on its continued weakness.
Then earlier this week came a suggestion that despite recent Land Registry figures, residential property transactions were in fact likely to start climbing again.
Of course, these reports are examining different facets of the property sector, and you read in to them what you chose to - or what the media suggests you should!
However, the fact remains that there are a) simply not enough houses coming on to the market and b) not enough houses being built.
I’m not telling you anything new here. The UK’s ‘housing crisis’ is perhaps the hottest industry topic of recent times, but do we simply spend too much time discussing it and not enough trying to change things?
I don’t have my head in the clouds and I don’t believe in miracles, but I do believe that action is needed. Those of you who regularly read my musings will recognise my mantra of housing needing to be above politics and while the government speaks often of addressing this crisis, insufficient progress is being made.
What needs to be done?
We build more houses, of course! And yes, the government has committed to this but there’s too much debate and simply not enough action. Debates centre around the merits, or not, of developing brownfield sites vis-à-vis encroaching on the greenbelt, but it’s simply not an either/or decision.
People have differing needs (and wants), and what’s important is that the housing provision meets those needs. That may mean proximity to good transport links; to employment opportunities; to their familiar communities – the reasons will be diverse and by default the provision should be too.
Regardless of what supporters or opposers see as the pros and cons of brownfield vs greenbelt, the simple reality is that both offer a part of the wider solution and yet neither are being developed sufficiently. We need local authorities to be given the power to ‘force’ build out on consented planning applications and we also need taxation measures placed on landowners who don’t free up land for development – we’re currently seeing neither, yet we give both plenty of airtime.
The land for development, whether brownfield or greenbelt is there, but sufficient desire to develop on it, is not. That needs addressing urgently and doing so will go a long way to solving this so called ‘housing crisis’ that we’re all so fixated with.
*David Westgate is Group Chief Executive of Andrews Property Group