Housing crisis needs cross-party support, says Bamford

Pad Bamford

Cross-party agreement on housing may seem a naive expectation but it is vital, regardless of the election result

As the general election gets closer, the political parties have started to put some policy meat on the housing reform bone.

Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives have reaffirmed their commitment to the policies outlined in the housing white paper, including an emphasis on the construction of starter homes and a somewhat flexible promise to build 250,000 affordable homes each year.

While the Conservatives seem content to rely on private developers to deliver on this, the Labour Party intends to take another route with a plan to get councils to contribute half of the one million new homes it wants built over the next five years.

Anyone with a passing interest in the supply of new homes will realise these numbers are large, especially compared to what has been achieved over the past couple of decades, with new-housing numbers barely reaching 150,000 in most years.

To that extent, we should perhaps not hold our breath when it comes to the ability of any political party to deliver on these ambitions. The housing white paper called the UK housing market ‘broken’, and one has to wonder whether an attempt at a five-year fix is either achievable or even the right route to take.

Cross-party agreement seems a naive expectation but that’s exactly what is needed; one that sets in place a 20- or 30-year plan not just for housing supply but also for key areas such as public/private collaboration, funding, support for first-time buyers and lending encouragement – particularly in the high-LTV space.

As we all know, this is a complex area that requires joined-up thinking – something that the white paper did at least begin to address.

Given the stakes involved, perhaps it would not be too much to ask also that the next government put in place a dedicated Department of Housing and a housing minister with a permanent seat at the Cabinet table – and one that is not changed every year or two.

Only then may we begin to believe that this issue is being treated with the seriousness it deserves.

Pad Bamford is business development director at AmTrust International, Mortgage & Credit