I think there is too much emphasis on providing low cost homes for key workers. Whilst I understand and sympathise with the needs of these people, little mention is ever made of other low-paid workers who are just as vital to the community and who are often even less able to afford to buy housing.
A Grade D nurse living and working in this area will be on a salary of £16405 according to the RCN, including a special cost of living allowance. That’s nearly 25% more than I get as a manager in horticulture – and my wage is typical, judging by adverts I see in the trade press. And I earn considerably more than workers such as those who have been striking recently that work for local authorities, maintaining the infrastructure that supports our everyday lives. And they earn more than many people who work on production lines, in farm fields, in shops and offices.
With a one bed flat in Chichester now costing not less than £95000 (five-and-a-half times the nurse’s income), none of these people can afford to buy a property.
There is only one effective way to solve this. It is not to pay these people more, be that in wages or housing allowances – all that will do is to feed the housing market still further, and drive prices still higher. Nor is it to introduce longer term mortgages of 40 or 50 years duration – that will have the same impact on property prices, but will also lead to debt in old age for a generation. The ONLY solution is to release more land for building, and fast. By dramatically increasing the supply of houses, prices will fall and property will become much more affordable. There will be greater choice and availability.
And 200,000 is peanuts. Independent estimates I have seen suggest that a million homes are needed by 2010 (see below) – so today’s initiative goes only one-fifth of the way to that target within half the time. When will someone wake up to this?
- Government stifles development by failing to provide supporting infrastructure
- Number of households in UK exceeds number of houses – Shelter estimate 90000 council or housing association dwellings must be built each year for a decade
- South East England Regional Assembly – Planning – the unelected quango that, following Mr Prescott’s statement today, will be taking planning powers from your elected county councils. Whatever happened to Labour’s pledges on democratic and accountable local government?