Coffee House

David Cameron is right to challenge NIMBYism

5 September 2012

2:03 PM

5 September 2012

2:03 PM

The planning debate has reared its head again, and this time it’s personal. David Cameron is now calling on people to stop their ‘familiar cry’ of opposition to new housing so that he could end the ‘dithering’ and get homes built. Fraser Nelson called this ‘taking aim’ at NIMBYs, and we believe the Prime Minister was right to do so.

The principle of doing something to help the current generation who, even if they work and save hard, remain almost completely priced out of the housing market often gets nodding agreement. Yet when it comes to the solution – building more affordable homes – Shelter’s research shows that it’s overwhelmingly the wealthiest and most housing-advantaged who are most likely to actively oppose development. Further research shows 61 per cent of people believe more affordable homes are needed, but only 39 per cent support more homes in their local area. This uncomfortable truth needs to be told and the Prime Minister should be applauded for doing so. If we want to ensure that this generation and the next aren’t completely priced out of a home of their own, we need to build. And with our cities growing, this will have to include some building on green field sites.

Unfortunately, further relaxation of the planning system won’t change the fact that our housing market is deeply dysfunctional and will never be able to deliver the homes Britain needs. Recent research by FTI Consulting makes clear that planning reform without structural reform will not address this fundamental problem. And as is frequently pointed out, large developers are already sitting on land with planning permission to build hundreds of thousands of homes.

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What’s also needed are moves to promote greater competition in the house building industry by helping new entrants into the market and, in the short-term, to provide developers with access to more long-term finance to take away some of the risk in getting homes built. Suggestions that the government will provide £10 billion of guarantees to both private developers and housing associations in this Thursday’s announcement should be welcomed.

And if there is to be further reform of planning regulation, it vital that it provides the clarity and consistency that local authorities, developers and residents need to actually get homes built.

Tomorrow’s announcement provides a huge opportunity for this government. Economically the evidence is clear: every home built creates jobs and boosts growth. Fraser Nelson’s comparisons with Ireland and Spain don’t stack up. To hit the Irish boom levels we’d need to build 1.3 million homes a year. Here we’re talking about an agreed need for 240,000 a year just to meet demand, while last year we built less than half this figure.

Building is on its knees, and we need urgent and bold action. This not only helps the economy, but the millions of ordinary people struggling to access a secure and affordable home.

Toby Lloyd is head of policy at Shelter.

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Show comments
  • andagain

    ” it’s overwhelmingly the wealthiest and most housing-advantaged who are most likely to actively oppose development.”

    Be fair to them: they are happy to cut spending on the poor and public sector workers. And scrap minimum wage laws. I wonder why everyone seems to think of the Tories as the party of elderly, wealthy, selfish people?

  • http://twitter.com/John_J_C_Moss John Moss

    You always choose a picture of houses when highlighting this sort of story. The fact is most NIMBYs face development of high-rise, high density flats, not houses with gardens for families, which most would actually be happy with.

    If somebody planned a new suburb or even a whole new town built with 60% houses with gardens, rather than the usual 80% flats. would people really mind if it was supported with new roads, schools, health and other facilities?

    Tell me? I’d like to know.

  • TomTom

    Rubbish. It is almost impossible to object to new development after Thatcher weakened the Planning Regulations and gave the Environment Department Inspectors the right to overrule any Council loading them with costs of Barristers. So-called detached houses are built 4 feet from other houses after Prescott changed the rules. High-density housing is pushed. We have absolutely rubbish junk housing that any other North European nation would refuse to permit anchored with 30 year mortgages and a 25 year life.

    The shoddy and overpriced trash that litters the landscape reveals just how supine Planning really is. It is a country of jerry-built rubbish using cheap materials and pathetic standardised roof joists anchored by aluminium plates. The shoddy cheapness of modern housing beggars belief

    • Bill Brinsmead

      Planning policy and practice restricts the supply of land for housing development. This pushes up land prices and this, coupled with the Prescott inspired rules on density and affordable housing, forces developers to cram in as much housing as possible in order to re coup development land costs. The result is disaster; cramped houses, small rooms, no scope for extensions as family circumstances change.
      Solution – make more land available for housing development. It can be done whilst safeguarding the best features of green belts. Just needs the imagination and flexibility that are unknown to town planners.

      • TomTom

        Try using existing sites first and the huge bank of unsold houses. There is no shortage of housing simply the means to pay for it. Housing costs are driven upwards by foreigners and buy-to-let. The country is paying a fortune in Housing Benefit – £21,000,000,000 because Credit has boosted the price of housing. There is lots of empty housing in England. the way Bill Brimstead talks we will be emulating Adolf Hitler and going East for Lebensraum. The island has 93000 square miles and it is not getting bigger.The population density of England would require the US to import ajnother 2,000,000,000 people to match it

        • dalai guevara

          Compare it to Japan, another island.

    • Bill Brinsmead

      Planning policy and practice restricts the supply of land for housing development. This pushes up land prices and this, coupled with the Prescott inspired rules on density and affordable housing, forces developers to cram in as much housing as possible in order to re coup development land costs. The result is disaster; cramped houses, small rooms, no scope for extensions as family circumstances change.
      Solution – make more land available for housing development. It can be done whilst safeguarding the best features of green belts. Just needs the imagination and flexibility that are unknown to town planners.

  • itdoesntaddup

    If you want to help the rising generations, simply let house prices fall: don’t prop them up with mortgage interest rate subsidies via QE. That way they become affordable to regular buyers, not just landlords whose purchase is subsidised by Housing Benefit paying half the rent. You also save on the HB too.

  • ScaryBiscuits

    Cameron would be in a much better position to criticise NIMBYs if his own plans made more sense. The business case for HS2 has collapsed under scrutiny. The case for new homes is undermined by hundreds of thousands of unused planning permissions, proving that NIMBYism is not the problem. The argument that house building funded by debt creates jobs and boosts growth (as opposed to gaming the GDP stats and facilitating immigration) is far from clear.
    It’s just another case of Cameron taking aim at his own supporters, blaming ‘the evil right-wingers’ for everyting instead of tackling the actual problems, which are too much debt, the zombie banks kept alive by printed money and taxpayer guarantees we can’t afford.

  • http://www.coffeehousewall.co.uk/ Coffeehousewall

    Bio: Lloyd brings with him eight years of experience in housing policy
    gained across the voluntary, public and private sectors. After
    graduating from Leeds University and the London School of Economics, he
    became deputy chief executive of campaigning and research charity the
    Henry George Foundation, following which he spent two years at the
    London Rebuilding Society developing non-profit equity release products
    for vulnerable homeowners in London’s East End.

    Between 2005 and 2007 he was senior policy manager at the Greater
    London Authority, where he focused on housing supply and affordability
    and wrote much of the Mayor’s Housing Strategy. He joins Shelter from a
    role as Policy and Strategy lead for Navigant Consulting’s public
    services division, where he provided expert advice on housing and
    regeneration issues to local, regional and national government, public
    agencies, developers and housing associations.

    It would be interesting to know if he has addressed the role of immigration on the housing crisis at any time in his career, and I say that with genuine interest. If he has not addressed immigration then it would be equally interesting to know why he has not.

  • http://www.coffeehousewall.co.uk/ Coffeehousewall

    It would be very interesting if Toby responded to the issue of immigration. Surely as someone engaged in caring for the homeless he should, above all, be concerned that high levels of immigration are putting British people onto the streets.

    Will he respond?

    • TomTom

      What proportion of Immigrants to Britain come from countrioes larger than Britain ?

      • http://www.coffeehousewall.co.uk/ Coffeehousewall

        Larger or more populous or more densely populated?

        • TomTom

          Larger land mass – very few are more densely populated

          • dalai guevara

            Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, I N D I A?

  • James102

    If they want to help people afford decent housing stop the open borders immigration policy.
    What is the point of building a quarter of a million homes a year if you allow 300 000 new immigrants to settle?
    Anyone who thinks house prices are not linked to immigration should ask themselves what would happen to house prices if two million immigrants went home.

    • dalai guevara

      I’ll give you a little story to think about.

      When I bought my first UK home – a five bedroom Victorian property – and completely converted it back from a leaky bedsit monster to a family home as originally intended by the master builders of 1871, this could have easily been broadcast on Grand Designs. Derelict low quality UK housing stock brought back into use. Brilliant stuff.

      Now, if I was an immigrant, you would argue I was clogging up the system of a more-deserving ‘indigenous’ clientele? Get a life and roll up your sleeves, sponger. Misunderstood sense of ‘entitlement’ in its prime form…

      • NIcholas

        Champagne socialist.

        • dalai guevara

          What do y o u know about champagne? Posturing again, Ronald?

  • alexsandr

    any plan is useless unless we have 100% mortgages again. But no, we cant do that because it puts the banks at risk. And what if there is a house price crash and loads go into negative equity.
    and anyway, concreting over large parts of britain could be an ecological disaster. And we must remember concreting over land makes flooding far far worse.
    Anyway what about the loads of current stock that is empty. Must be loads of those that could be brought into use.
    And anyway, even if they do get more starts surely the jobs will go to cheap imported labour so very little help to the UK economy.

    • Nicholas

      Who is behind all these payday loan outfits advertising at 1,700+%? Why have they suddenly proliferated during the recession and where is their capital coming from? It seems exploitative of those on the lowest incomes but there is very little comment about it or who is behind it.

      • alexsandr

        google ‘wonga.com wiki’. all there if you want to read it.

        • Nicholas

          ok thanks.

    • TomTom

      The Banks have as big a mortgage book as they want. You cannot get 100% mortgages without syndication – so you need to find Banks and Pension Funds to buy Mortgage Bonds and insure them with CDS…….I am afraid the movie stopped running in 2008

  • Radford_NG

    5 Sept. c.2.15pm.BST…..Let Cameron set the example and take-up my plan for a large new housing development at Witney.

  • Nicholas

    Easy for him to say. What is of equal if not more concern is how and what is built. Currently we have computer generated plots to ensure that the maximum number of tiny-roomed houses can be packed into the smallest possible space and sold at inflated prices to working couples. There seems to be little consideration of aesthetics, architectural merit or sustainable infrastructure. The council usually ensures that a proportion of the “disadvantaged families” is included within any housing project to ensure the lives of everyone else is made miserable.

    • James102

      You have to house those bipedal work units somewhere.

    • wrinkledweasel

      You are so right. It is depressing to see acres of tiny boxes with thin walls and plastic windows. It does not have to be like this; there are myriad designs for eco-friendly and more importantly, human-friendly dwellings. The current crop of housing projects reflects the miserable state of how we see ourselves and how others see us. We are no longer people with aspirations to a quality of life, but just a bunch of Epsilon Semi-Morons who need a space to sleep big enough for a 60 inch flat-screen telly.

      “Affordable” housing does not necessarily mean crap housing.

  • Michael990

    “And as is frequently pointed out, large developers are already sitting
    on land with planning permission to build hundreds of thousands of
    homes.” And with a single sentence, you kill what passed for your argument for planning changes stone dead.

    • TomTom

      200,000 units – they should have to pay Capital Gains Tax on it or simply forfeit it after 4 years

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