Housing: Where’s the Plan?

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HousingKate Barker

Perspectives are essays on big ideas by leading writers, each given free rein and a modest word limit to reframe an issue of great contemporary interest. –Diane Coyle, Series Editor

Housing is a fundamental necessity, and yet it is generally acknowledged that we have a ‘housing crisis’ in the UK. The housing market has worked well for many people (who have enjoyed the steeply rising values of their homes), which is why change, especially new building, is resisted. But for increasing numbers it now works less well, as home ownership is out of reach. Government finds it easier to introduce short-term policies that are not really effective, meaning that the long-term issues are never really resolved. Reforms are urgently needed.

There are many national policy aims, including decent homes for all, protection of the green belt, better design of buildings and places, avoidance of price volatility, and intergenerational fairness. We also have an existing housing stock that is wrongly located, and some of the housing we do have is of poor quality. With so many conflicting views, strong local feelings and a balance to be struck between growth and conservation, what housing market outcomes might be regarded as a success for policymakers? This book dispels some common myths, and provides answers in the form of policy recommendations.

The apparent inability to build more housing is the UK’s biggest policy failure. The system of land-use planning that largely explains what has happened generates indefensible economic distortions. Yet this is far more than just an economic policy failure. It is also a profoundly social one, since it thwarts family formation, the foundation of a fulfilled and purposive life. Kate Barker provides both a clear analysis of the problem and sensible, albeit modest, reforms. These represent the very least that needs to be done.-Martin Wolf, Financial Times

This succinct presentation of the housing challenge we have ourselves managed to create sets out clearly the inter- and intragenerational debate required. Politics is stuck between those for whom the current system works and those for whom it does not. This is the strongest description of this dilemma I have seen for a while. It must be read and debated – or read with despair. –Bridget Rosewell, Senior Partner, Volterra Partners

No one can speak to the housing supply issues facing the UK with the same authority as Kate Barker. This clear concise analysis of UK housing issues makes a series of policy recommendations that are both feasible and desirable. An excellent account of the state of UK housing – admirable in its coherence, clarity and precision.- David Miles, Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee

Dame Kate Barker is a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee. She led two influential policy reviews in the mid 2000s: one on housing supply and one on planning. Among other roles, she is now a senior adviser at Credit Suisse and a non-executive director of Taylor Wimpey plc and the Yorkshire Building Society.

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