Strategic Land Group comments on IEA White Paper

Paul Smith, MD of Strategic Land Group, commented on the IEA Housing White Paper:

“The IEA white paper raises some important points – it clearly evidences how the current system constrains supply and drives up prices, for example. It also identifies the fact that many recent reforms have addressed symptoms of the housing crisis, but have failed to remedy root causes.

“However, there are some questionable aspects of the paper, too – the suggestion that “much of the resistance” to new homes is concern over how they’ll look is particularly left-field. In my experience, objection is almost entirely about principle and whether social infrastructure can withstand additional pressure – not design.

“They’re right to point out that constraining the supply of land will lower the quality of design – developers compete on location, not design – but this isn’t a silver bullet to satisfying those that oppose new developments.

“The misguided belief that more attractive homes would help increase housing supply flows through into the proposed solutions, with an apparent belief that NIMBYism will fall away if residents were given more control over development. The experience of Neighbourhood Development Plans suggests that wouldn’t be the case.

“Other areas are identified as problems but aren’t addressed at all – in particular the complexity and cost of the planning system, which makes it difficult for all but the largest house builders to navigate it.

 “There are, though, some helpful suggestions that actually could help to increase supply – most notably a selective release of Green Belt land by simply testing it against the current criteria.

“Focus on self-build is particularly interesting – and a first in terms of high-level white papers. The report recognises that it’s very difficult for individuals to tackle the planning system, and instead suggests a fast-track process with a “light touch notification process whereby local authorities already have a style guide for new homes in place. While it’s not a perfect solution, it’s very positive to see self-build recognised – it could make a huge difference in solving the housing crisis; it just needs to be simpler.”