Edited 09/09/12: Rowan Moore, I like the cut if your jib, a rather good short article on this subject from this weekends Observer The more I hear about current central government moves to encourage house building the more I am concerned about the motivations of those involved and the means by which they intend to achieve their ends.
First published on my blog aviewfromtheinterior.net
Todays announcement (see the BBC Politics Blog) to relax planning regulations and rehabilitate derelict dwellings, could have a positive impact on availability of opportunity for those excluded from the present housing market, but the whole tone of this announcement is rather more of the advantages to business of these moves. The most concerning thing, coupled with he recent abolition of squatters rights, a motion that passed our Parliaments allege scrutiny with barely a peep (see access-legal.co.uk, and The Guardian, here for a couple of informative article on the recent move) is the removal of the requirement for house builders to build affordable homes in their developments.
This morning the Prime Ministers office alleged that this requirement is blocking “75 000 homes currently stalled due to sites being commercially unviable”. The question for me is how is this judgement being made?
I suspect this is to do with property prices. If a developer can build a one class, one income bracket, estate, a high income bracket of course, then the property on that estate will have a higher aggregate value on the market. I have no proof of this (or am yet to find any) yet it seems logically that the kind of people who buy executive starter homes on Barratt estates are also the kind of people who want their executive starter home Barratt estates to be monocultural. These are suburban environments, and suburbs are designed to not be challenging, to be neutral, bland, biege to ensure that nothing threatens the value of the property. The attitude being that property is property, not houses or homes but investments that must be protected. Local councils (read: Labour councils) who insist that affordable housing is built on new estates to house people of modest incomes will, in this new legislation, be able to be bypassed. The erosion of local democracy that this implies is horrendous. Local people could protest all they like to their councillors, their planning authorities, they can go to planning and council meetings and raise objections, but the house builder can bypass this entire process and go straight to the new Planning Inspectorate.
” • Thousands of big commercial and residential applications to be directed to a major infrastructure fast track and where councils are poor [again, read: Labour] developers can opt to have their decision taken by the Planning Inspectorate.”
I have no doubt that at today’s launch of this policy it will be left to Clegg and the Liberals to claim this is not Tory class war as the following allowance has been made:
” • Up to15,000 affordable homes and bring 5,000 empty homes back into use using new capital funding of £300m and the infrastructure guarantee.”
15,000 is a paltry figure and with the scrapping of the requirement to build affordable, who will do this? Which developer will build these estates? The system will have to subsidised by the public purse to ensure private developers reap the same if not more financial benefit from these projects to guarantee these dwelling will be be built. or the vacuous “Big Society” int he form of Housing Associations and charities will be expected to plug this gap. The next point is where will these house be built? The answer I fear is on further monocultural low income estates, thereby repeating the disastrous council housing policies of the 1970s and ’80s that led the social segregation and violence of the likes of Broadwater Farm and Toxteth. The ghettoisation of housing and of classes and people’s is the all to possible result of this corporate, big business friendly legislation.
The similarities with the establishment by Heseltine and Thatcher of the Special Development areas and orders, most notably the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) Enterprise Zone during the early 1980s, are striking. The removal of planning regulations, the exclusion of local people, the demolition of local democracy, and the wholesale destruction of the existing and construction of redoubted middle-class enclaves seems entirely in keeping with these proposals. The current move is perhaps not appear quite as mendacious as the example of the early 1980s but such is the presentation, the superficial appearance of cuddly Conservatism under Cameron and the Liberals.