Source: Demise of the Nimby.
David Orr is Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation.
The long awaited Housing White Paper looks set to be published next week – and the backlash has already begun. We are led to believe that the sanctity of the green belt is under threat, and that our countryside is once again vulnerable to a thorough concreting-over.
This is the kind of over-reaction that has dogged successive Governments looking to do something bold on housing. It is unhelpful, inaccurate (the green belt has doubled in size in the last 20 years), and is one of the main reasons for our current housing crisis.
And we are in crisis. Although there are still a small number of flat-earthers out there, the overwhelming majority of us now accept that we have not been building nearly enough new homes. It now takes low and middle income households an average 22 years to save the typical deposit paid on a first time buyer home. Around half of first time buyers in England need financial support from their parents. In 2014, home ownership levels in the UK fell behind France, and were significantly below the EU average. These are all indicators of a housing market that is failing far too many of us.
Bold action is required, and the Government should know that the public are with them. According to new data from the respected British Social Attitudes survey, referenced in our new report, Demise of the Nimby, support in England for new homes has almost doubled since 2010, with 57 per cent of us now believing we need new homes in our area. Only around a quarter of us now resist new homes being built locally. There is a high level of support for house building across the whole country, across all age groups and across supporters of all our major political parties. But there is a further and critical piece of information. When asked if we would back new homes that are affordable for people on average incomes in our local area, the support was overwhelming. 73 per cent of us say we need these homes.
The politics of this is compelling. For far too long, homes have not been built because our elected representatives feared the NIMBYs (Not In My BackYard). Many of our councillors and MPs campaigned against new homes because that represented the views of the majority of their constituents. It is now abundantly clear that those views have changed.
People want new homes – for themselves, for their grown-up children who can’t afford to leave their family home, for their parents who need to downsize to great homes and the possibility of care as their needs change. And we want these homes to be affordable. Not luxury flats for foreign investors, or expensive five bedroom executive homes. We want ordinary, warm, secure, well designed, affordable homes for ordinary people to live in. Hardly an unreasonable expectation.
To those spoiling for a fight – you are now on the wrong side of the argument and the wrong side of the politics. The government is right to set an ambitious target of one million homes in this parliament. Not only do we need that for the next parliament too, and the one after, we also need to make the building of new homes a long-term national priority.
This will require political leadership and courage at both local and national level. There will, of course, be a lot of noise from a small number of people who are already well housed, well connected and articulate. We will have the usual ludicrous and hysterical claim that we are concreting over the countryside. Nonsense of course. What housing associations want to do is build good quality homes in well-designed neighbourhoods for people to live in. It’s crystal clear that this is what the public want too.