William Eichler 16 October 2017

Councils should be given powers to ‘disrupt’ housing market, think tank says

Local authorities should be given powers to re-designate greenbelt land and employers should auto-enrol the young to encourage saving for house deposit, think tank says.

A new report from Localis has recommended councils should be allowed to create ‘yellowfield registers’ of greenbelt land where the greenbelt designation is unwarranted.

This would enable them to free up more land for development which, in turn, would ‘disrupt’ the broken housing market.

Jonathan Goring, the managing director of Lovell, the housing-led regeneration company which sponsored the report, said this would allow for a ‘more flexible and imaginative use of greenbelt and public land’.

The report, entitled Disrupting the Housing Market, also called on employers and the Government to extend the principle of auto-enrolment from pensions to saving deposits among 18-40 year olds.

This, the report argued, would ‘radically’ speed up the time it takes young people to earn the deposit for their first house.

According to a YouGov poll conducted for the report, some 58% of those who did not own their home said they were saving nothing at all each month for a deposit, with fewer than one quarter (23%) admitting to putting aside any cash for a new home.

‘Whether out of choice, or simply because they do not have enough money at the end of each month to do so, a majority of people are not building any financial capacity with which to get a mortgage and purchase a home in the future,’ said Jack Airey, senior researcher at Localis.

‘This crisis of saving transcends people of all tenures, ages, regions and socio-economic classes yet these consequences are underappreciated, least of all by non-homeowners themselves.

‘Under this auto-enrolment scheme, rather than relying on the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’, employers and government would help young people onto the housing ladder.’

The report also recommended the state should invest in new housing factories to disrupt the housing industry and produce a generation of new modular homes for on-site assembly.

Liam Booth-Smith, chief executive at Localis, insisted that owning private property was a ‘bulwark against populism and radicalisation’ and warned the first rung of the housing ladder should not be lifted too high.

‘Home-ownership is a bulwark against populism and radicalisation - when you have a tangible stake in society you are far less likely to want to tear it down.

‘It is also an important life ambition, one that recent generations have enjoyed and future generations should too.

‘The housing market is everyone’s problem - those who already own their home are dependent on someone else buying it. If the first rung of the housing ladder is lifted too high, there will be fewer and fewer buyers to sell to in the future.’

‘A Burkean intergenerational contract needs to be restored between those who wish to own their home, those that already do; and those that want to leave for retirement,’ he added.

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