Hounslow needs “help to build” not just “help to buy”

land bank

With the extension of the coalition government’s “help to buy” scheme beyond new builds to existing properties, it will be interesting to see what the impact of this policy will be in Hounslow. 


We’ve already had new build schemes like Thornbury Road in Isleworth, supported with the “help to buy”, helping to push the price of a property in Hounslow in June to £421,059with an annual price increase of 12.8 per cent.  But this new extension of the programme is unlikely to help the creation of more properties which is the real issue in London.   In fact, there are fears that the likely effect will be to stoke the already existing inflationary pressures in the housing market. 


That’s why Ed Miliband’s proposal of a “use it or lose it” policy is a fair and forceful way to shift 210,000 homes in London which have planning permission but have not yet been built on by developers who for whatever reason choose to land bank instead.  We only have to see the empty sites in Brentford off the Great West Road, to appreciate the extent of the problem in Hounslow alone.  The proposal would allow councils to impose escalating fees on developers who refuse to build, backed up by the threat of compulsory purchase orders for the very worst offenders, giving councils the tools they need to effectively tackle land banking, where developers seek to maximise value and returns by sitting on land instead of building on it. 


Unlike the coalition’s policy, this is much more likely to produce new housing and unlikely to create further inflationary pressure in the housing market as most experts suggest will be the result.  The job of opponents to the government’s proposals is to ensure that the message about the likely cause and effects of such a policy are understood by the public.  This latest extension of “help to buy” is not helpful.  Instead what London needs is “help to build”!.


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