This week saw the long awaited white paper from the government outlining the current state of the housing market. I don’t think that it surprised many people when it stated that there is a chronic shortage of properties for people to rent or buy and that most properties are well beyond the financial reach of first time buyers or prospective tenants.
They have stated that the housing market is ‘broken’ and that at least 250,000 new homes a year have to be built to keep up with demand. But can they actually do anything about it or is this just another report that we have all paid for out of our taxes that wont actually bring any real change?
They have said that all of these new houses have to be built, but they will continue to protect the green belt. I don’t know how they can realistically do both. In Leigh on Sea and the surrounding areas there isn’t enough land and certainly not enough brownfield sites to build substantial numbers of homes. What there is has already been earmarked like the large Ecko site opposite Priory Park which has a few hundred properties but we are already having to encroach in to the greenbelt with developments in Rochford, Rayleigh, Ashingdon & Thundersley.
There is also market conditions that have an impact on the type of properties developers build. With land prices so high they can’t afford to build small starter homes or first time buyer style apartments. They have to build larger low density properties that are obviously more expensive to be able to recoup their costs.
The government also sees land banking quite rightly as an issue. This is the practice where developers buy up land and sit on it without building for many years waiting for prices to rise. The way they will try and get around this is to reduce the time that planning permission is valid fro from 3 years to 2 years. This sounds like an OK idea but if developers don’t even submit formal plans then they are well within their rights to wait until they feel the time is right.
There also seems a bit of a shift from a Tory government. After the Margaret Thatcher years of 'right to buy council houses' and the insatiable drive for property ownership, there seems to be more focus and hopefully protection for tenants. No longer will tenants have to be at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords (hopefully) and there could be the scrapping of Lettings agents up front fees and longer term tenancy agreements to give tenants extra security.
But like everything it all boils down to supply and demand. Demand for all types of properties to buy or sell doesn’t seem to be waining and as ever, especially in Leigh on Sea there isn’t enough property and certainly not enough of the right types of properties.
It seems obvious but extremely difficult to put into practice. Build more houses than people actually want or need. Build more council houses. This will ease up the demand for privately owned rental properties and would mean that rents become more affordable. Build more starter homes and apartments and this will mean that first time buyers are able to get on to the housing ladder. This in turn will mean more people out there will be able to buy , it will keep prices down as more properties become available and then enable more retirement type properties or sheltered accommodation to be built. Lots of elderly people are single occupants of large houses that would be more suited to young families upsizing.
As I said though, identifying the problems in the housing market is the easy bit. Implementing any real change will be much more difficult and will probably take at least a generation. I already worry about how my 4 year old daughter will ever realistically be able to afford to buy a property and things will have to radically change for me to change my mind.
This article is by Rob at Scott & Stapleton
Tel: 01702 471155
You can read all of Rob's previous articles at https://www.leigh-on-sea.com/blog/tag/property.html