Hopes and dangers in government plans

Kevin Paterson, managing director, Park Row Independent Mortgages First-time buyers and key workers in property hotspots have been increasingly priced out of the property market. A recent government report highlighted that due to economic growth, rising incomes, more single occupancy households and people generally living longer in the past 30 years, the demand for housing has dramatically increased. In some areas, notably London and the South-East, buying a property has been put beyond the reach of many. Yet over the same period we are building around 150,000 fewer new homes each year.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott recently admitted that the government had consistently failed to adjust to geographical changes in economic activity, tackle the problems of abandonment and dereliction and, despite securing significant additional funding for the NHS, had failed to deal with the problems of housing key workers in some of the most expensive areas.

Prescott says that he&#39s keen to make the best use of land and has outlined his focus on brownfield sites and protecting the greenbelt. And his words are not empty rhetoric. Local authorities that fail to meet their targets can expect him to intervene. I hope this does not lead to knee-jerk decisions being taken to avoid a public flogging from Prescott.

In the South-East the government has identified four areas for targeted growth – Thames Gateway, Ashford, Milton Keynes, and the London-Stansted-Cambridge area, estimating that at least 200,000 homes could be built in these areas. The plans include a target to build 60% of new homes on brownfield sites. Prescott has also pledged to intervene where planning applications are sought for housing density of less than 30 dwellings per hectare.

All serious stuff, but will it work? Well, there is certainly money behind it, with £22bn earmarked over the next three years – £1.2bn alone being targeted on the creation of 20,000 affordable homes each year.