CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Dithering Chancellor fails to address the housing crisis

24 November, 2017

Philip Hammond outside No11 Downing Street before giving his Budget speech to parliament

CHANCELLOR Philip Hammond’s Budget speech proposals for tackling the housing crisis show that he still prefers to tinker around the edges. The past two governments have been doing that for years.

Mr Hammond promises 300,000 new houses a year by the mid-2020s. That, unfortunately, is some years ahead.
In any case, will the promise be kept?

Though the government isn’t averse to manipulating stamp duty payments to boost the private market – the abolition of stamp duty on homes up to £300,000 for first time buyers will, in fact, raise demand and then house prices.

It will not do what is essential and borrow billions to embark on a massive house building programme. Not in two or three years’ time. But immediately. Even then, work couldn’t start until the middle or end of next year, but at least it would show serious intent.

This sort of programme could only be executed with the full engagement of local authorities who should be allowed to borrow while interest rates are still low. There is a wing in the Conservative parliamentary party that sees the sense in this approach. But the cautious, do-nothing Chancellor dithers.

At one level this doesn’t make sense. Because the housing crisis will never be solved until it is accepted that there is little ideologically wrong in using public funds to intervene in the free market.

This is the sort of thing that has been going on in Germany and France for decades.

We must keep council-owned ‘street properties’ safe

Despite the huge pressure for new housing stock and for urgent measures at tower blocks, the quality and safety of council-owned “street prop­er­ties” must not compromised.

Survivors of the terrible fire in Daleham Gardens this week (see page 2-3) have raised suspicions that poor mainten­ance may have been to blame.

How many buildings, particularly in Hampstead, where building refurbishment costs may be more expensive, are being left to neglect and decay?
There may be hundreds of buildings, hidden in plain site right across the borough, that have not had full and proper safety checks.

Originally built as family houses, many of them will have first been split into flats and then sold-off, one-by-one, through the “right to buy” policy. In these split tenure houses, there may be confusion about who has ultimate responsibility to look after the communal areas.

The council needs to carry out a proper survey of its street properties.

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