Labour leader Ed Milliband told his party conference yesterday that his government would seize land from developers that were too slow to develop them.
“We’ll say to private developers, you can’t just sit on land and refuse to build,” Mr Milliband said. “We will give them a very clear message – either use the land or lose the land, that is what the next Labour government will do.”
He added: “We’ll identify new towns and garden cities and we’ll have a clear aim that by the end of the parliament Britain will be building 200,000 homes a year, more than at any time in a generation.”
National House-Building Council chief executive Mike Quinton liked the sound of that. He said: “We welcome Ed Miliband's commitment to support the UK house building industry. Despite encouraging signs this year of a broad based recovery, there remains a critical shortage of new homes being built. Our figures show that 122,288 new homes were registered in the last 12 months from August 2012 to July 2013 – less than half the numbers this country needs.”
The CBI was less supportive. Director-general John Cridland said: “The commitment to 200,000 homes a year is a great ambition. To achieve this we need house builders on board, not criticised for holding on to land when it's not viable to build on it.”
House-builders themselves are broadly happy with the current government’s policies. Industry leaders met housing minister earlier this month and told him that the demand side mortgage support measures introduced by government were working and would lead directly to more homes being built. Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said: “Help to Buy has been an unqualified success.”
Figures released this week in HBF’s latest Housing Pipeline report reveal a 49% year-on-year increase in the number of planning approvals for new homes in England in the second quarter of 2013. While a fall on Q1, the figure still means there were 77,686 permissions granted in the first six months of the year, a 26% year-on-year increase.
The 37,053 permissions granted in the second quarters was the highest Q2 number since 2008. However, it is still well short of the 55,000 permissions required on average per quarter – 220,000 per year - to meet what is considered to be housing need, or the 54,500 that were being granted on average per quarter during the 2006/07 boom.