United-Kingdom

‘Nimbys’ and landlords are the scapegoats for Britain’s shoddy housing crisis

I did not object to the development of small housing on the Brownfield land behind my street. I’d have preferred to keep a clear view of the old field, but I knew Britain needed to build houses – and I couldn’t imagine picking a fight against a developer.

But when the prefabricated fiberglass chimneys arrived on a flatbed truck and were sunk to the roofs by crane, I began to wish someone had insisted that the new homes were better designed rather than more of those omnipresent boxes.

Britain’s housing crisis is now so acute that to object to developments is to be arrogant and selfish – and to be called a ‘prophet’. But on the march toward building hundreds of thousands of new homes, we’ve given up on our standards.

Developers will drop grotesque new homes onto the site without adequate new transportation or GP surgeries, further angering those who build their community on them. Buyers and their new neighbors alike deserve better.

Rob Temple wrote last week in The Telegraph about his regrets about buying a newly built house full of obstacles and problems. His story is familiar to buyers across the country. This week, Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, was forced to backtrack on plans to impose targets for the construction of 300,000 new homes a year amid fears of a revolt by members of parliament.

These arbitrary targets don’t work – the government never hits them – but in the race to build to scale, they also act as a call for local councils to say yes to any developer with a bulldozer and a plan, no matter how much the landscape might scare.

The country needs to build more homes but it still can’t seem to get it right. The failure lies with years of failed planning policy by the government, not with landlords and second home owners who are often scapegoats.

The latest government pressure on landlords – cutting the capital gains allowance from £12,300 to £3,000 by 2024 – will see second home owners taxed an extra £2,600 and trigger a rush to sell. In effect, the government is working to free up the housing supply by forcing landlords, rather than building what is needed.

Just like high taxes, constant pressure on landlords seems to go against everything conservatives have to stand for. It is not only conservative, but short-sighted as well. Britain also needs profitable landlords to provide them with good rentable homes.

Not all new designs are bad and some of them look great. If you visit Warwickshire or the Cotswolds you will see beautiful new homes built from local stone which mixes in well. It is the houses that are built quickly and cheaply that prove to be a disaster for Britain.

Yes, buyers can afford it and put a roof over their heads, but how long will they last? Help to Buy has turned a generation of young buyers into sleazy homes and has given builders record profits. Many of them will be pushed into negative equity as home prices fall.

We need more decent landlords and we need to build more homes, but we also need to provide homes that are worth buying and living in.

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