Cameron and Osborne’s housing legacy ‘strongest for a generation’

Natalie Elphicke, chief executive of The Housing & Finance Institute, has described David Cameron and George Osborne’s housing legacy as ‘the strongest of any government for a generation’.

Despite the ‘conventional wisdom’ that Theresa May has inherited a ‘full-blown housing crisis’, with the public being told that there aren’t enough homes being built – and those that are being constructed are unaffordable for the vast majority of Brits, Natalie Elphicke said: “It is true we have some serious housing challenges, but it is also a fact we have made some extraordinary steps forward since David Cameron and George Osborne took control of the tiller in 2010.

“For two politicians perceived to be masters of spin and presentation, they failed to sell their ground-breaking housing achievements while in government. But they really did preside over record-breaking house building, a reformed planning policy and a package of reforms that leave our housing industry in a much stronger position than when they took office six years ago.

“Cameron and Osborne’s is the strongest housing legacy of any government for over 35 years.”

The Housing & Finance Institute’s chief executive says the last government oversaw a quiet revolution in housing supply.

“As Chancellor, Osborne put housing at the heart of Britain’s recovery and growth strategy, committing over £38 billion of public money into the sector; a scale of public finance housing support that has not seen since the post war era.

“Financial commitment has been matched by root and branch reform across all parts of government which impact on housing: planning, public finances, local government finance, local government powers and the government’s entire public land estate.”

Ms Elphicke continued: “There has been wholesale reform of planning through the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework. This is helping councils and housing businesses alike understand what housing is needed and where. Action has been taken on empty homes, on better utilisation of existing social housing stock and on keeping Britain building.”

The HFI has identified the flagship Help to Buy scheme as a key driver to their success. Often misanalysed as a demand side boost, the original Help to Buy scheme was a supply side boost to address the immediate challenge that volume house builders faced, which was that new buyers did not have the higher deposits necessary to secure a mortgage after the credit crunch.

The Help to Buy programme ensured that builders had the confidence to continue to build new homes, knowing that the homes were within the reach of buyers.

Elphicke commented: “These root and branch reforms of housing are working. Britain has more fuel in its housing tank than at any recent time. Planning permissions are at an eight year high with over 475,000 in stock at the beginning of 2016. Over 200,000 additional homes have been added to the council tax base in the year to March 2016. There are fewer empty homes than at any time since records began.”

The HFI says Cameron and Osborne can also be proud of their record on social housing. They oversaw the only net increase in the number of households in social housing of any of the last five governments.

The last two full reported years to 2015 saw the highest numbers of households in social housing for more than a decade.

More than 750,000 homes have been built during their term of office already, with final figures to be released in the coming months. House building starts are more than 100 per cent above the low point of March 2009.

Speaking of what now needs to be done by the new government, Elphicke commented: “To keep Britain building, Hammond will need to steady the global financial markets and continue with Help to Buy and other interventions.

“The previous government had dipped a toe in the water for building directly commissioned by government and was supporting the development of construction and other skills academies, encouraging off-site manufacturing, re-invigorating estate regeneration and nurturing the return of smaller builders.

“To counter the short term Brexit impact, the new government will need to accelerate the pace of change for these critical areas.”