It was, perhaps surprisingly, Ronald Reagan, who delivered one of the wisest comments on the process of politics: “Politics is simple, but it is not easy”.
And this is particularly so when it comes to political discourse around the current housing crisis. It is easy to come up with simple solutions, it is difficult to come up with easy ones. We believe that the five areas we outline below can be achieved if there is the political will to pursue them, but we know that is not always as easy as it seems.
All the main party manifestos sought to tackle the housing crisis. We welcome this focus and discussion. One thing it appears everyone agrees on is that there is an urgent need for solutions to the complex housing challenges we all face.
As election fever ramps up, these are our five policy asks:
MORE NEEDED FOR BUILD TO RENT.
U + I believes that a rental only housing option is an essential part of the housing solution, knitted into wider mixed use developments. We think national policy should recognise the specific benefits of institutionally-owned Built to Rent accommodation as an increasingly important and mainstream component of housing provision, particularly for starter homes.
ENCOURAGE PUBLIC PRIVATE COLLABORATION.
The next Government should encourage greater and more innovative collaboration between public and private sectors. If local authorities have more autonomy then they can bring around transformational socio-economic change in their areas.
By working with the public sector, we can help them deliver the investment, expertise and action they need to deliver many more homes more quickly, as well as creating places where people want to live, work and play.
Our work at Clapham One has elevated expectations of what public sector partnerships can and should deliver in terms of community facilities. The scheme created for Clapham a much-needed library and a new highly sustainable leisure centre, family health centre and some of the highest quality residential accommodation in the borough, including affordable housing in partnership with Notting Hill Housing.
PROMOTING MIXED-USE DEVELOPMENTS.
Focus on increasing the number of homes being built across the UK is welcome, but these need to be balanced with considerations around schemes that deliver other very substantial public benefits.
Increasingly people want to live, work and play in the same area. Balanced growth in homes and jobs as part of mixed use development schemes chimes with this trend.
But perhaps most importantly, we need to build communities. We need to build places people want to live - places they can enjoy and places they can feel proud of.
UNLOCKING BROWNFIELD SITES AND THE GREEN BELT.
Government is naturally concerned about the emotive and thus political need to ‘protect the green belt’. However, in reality this often chokes delivery of housing and jobs. The green belt is not uniformly beautiful or sacrosanct. In parts of London, it is fragmented and offers only pockets of undeveloped but largely unused land within the urban area.
The release of brownfield land within green belt if it includes starter homes and has less-than-substantial impact on the area should be welcomed.
ONE SIZE DOESN’T FIT ALL.
One dimension of the housing shortage that needs radical thinking is the size of our homes. The next Government should also consider the development of smaller homes in city centres. We recognise that delivering these homes involves relaxing certain regulations and conventions on space standards, density and affordability. But we have ideas on how this can be done without compromising quality of life.
We recognise there is no one solution to the problems facing the housing market in the UK. We also recognise there is a need for the private sector to shoulder some of the responsibility and push innovation, challenge accepted norms and champion change if we are to develop solutions.
We’ll be around to deliver real places for a long time to come, longer than the next Government, and we look forward to seeing policies that match the development needs of this country, now and in the future.