Investing in the Country's Social Fabric; by Dr Ashley Lane, Chair of Solihull Community Housing and Group Partnerships Director of Persimmon Homes

The Birmingham Post (England), December 8, 2011 | Go to article overview

Investing in the Country's Social Fabric; by Dr Ashley Lane, Chair of Solihull Community Housing and Group Partnerships Director of Persimmon Homes


Byline: Ashley Lane

By Dr Ashley Lane, chair of Solihull Community Housing and Group Partnerships Director of Persimmon Homes For the first time in recent years, housing is back as one the Gov-v ernment's priorities, and today the issue is high on the agenda.

Whatever else is going on in the country, if people feel the construction sector in general, and the housing market in particular, is in decline or has even stagnated completely, our national morale seems to be affected accordingly.

Investing in housing is not just about the capital cost. It's an investment in the whole social fabric of the country and, if delivered well, has the potential to generate benefits in other sectors - health, education, employment and our wider economic prosperity.

It is well documented that quality and choice in housing has a direct impact on social mobility, health and wellbeing from an early age.

So it is gratifying to observe the link between these issues is now starting to be appreciated. Britain certainly needs to get building again - but does the coalition's new housing strategy give us the boost we badly need? Current problems cover the entire property market, not just the affordable housing sector. More and better housing is required for all tenures and the need for larger, family housing is also clear.

Those of us involved in the sector have long been hoping for a policy to tackle the increasing gap between demand and supply, and one which will provide a vision for the long term.

This will give developers, housing providers, local councils and lenders, not to mention the prospective residents, the confidence to make plans for the future.

So will the strategy deliver? There are certainly many proposals within it which are to be welcomed, and which together should make a dif-f ference to those looking to get onto the property ladder.

However, securing a foothold in the housing market for the first time will be harder given last week's unexpected news that stamp duty relief for first time buyers up to pounds 250,000 is to be abolished from March 24 2012. One step up the ladder, two back down it.

That bit of news was buried in the Chancellor's autumn statement and was not included in the housing strat-t egy announced the preceding week.

The other worrying aspect of the autumn statement was the re-introduction of 'right-to-buy'. Of course this will be lauded by some but what concerns me is that it has 'ransoming' implications for major urban renewal schemes around the country and within the West Midlands.

There also needs to be more clarity on how the receipts from these rightto-buy homes will fund additional new affordable homes on a one-to-one basis, as the government claims. The potential for time lapse between receipt and new build is huge and will need to be carefully monitored.

But let's not be too pessimistic. …

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