Peter Kenyon assesses a spirited effort to resurrect public sector home building through a review of fellow Chartist Duncan Bowie’s new book
Radical solutions to the Housing Crisis
Duncan Bowie (Policy Press, £9.99 pb Special launch price £5.00 with Code PORSHSC17 – valid until 10 February 2017)
Housing supply in England, particularly in London and the South-East is in crisis. If you doubt that then this book is a must read. Written in the wake of the ‘coronation’ of Theresa May as Conservative Prime Minister last summer, the author reports a pause in the enactment of the last rites over social housing and town and country planning as known since the late 1940s. The book is divided into three sections Context, Crisis and Alternative. His opening chapter focuses on the Conservatives infamous Housing and Planning Act 2016. The Tories were not alone in denying people their right to an affordable home. Chapter 2 examines the direction of travel and Chapter 3 reminds us that the other two mainstream political parties, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all share responsibility for the mess.
There is no quick fix.
A starting point according to the author is restating the positive purpose of social housing. Holding on to that idea is a challenge. Section 2 stamps out the reasons why it is important. Chapter 4 details the extent of the Housing Crisis in England. Chapter 5, which is crammed with shocking statistics, demands a rethink on affordability. Chapter 6 begs questions about current policy resulting in the private sector building the wrong sort of homes. Chapter 7 challenges the use of the current housing stock and Chapter 8 goes for planning system, which in short the author suggests is now more a NIMBY’s charter than an instrument of public policy to address housing need. Section 3 spells out the radical solutions in a considered manner which might even tempt the most rabid private sector adherent to ponder. The case for an integrated approach on land, taxation, planning and public investment to address the housing crisis is set out. What remains unanswered is which politicians will have the guts to embrace and enact?