Simply announcing a target is a poor subsidy for a policy. The Labour Party announce a target of 200,000 new homes a year. Why not 250,000? Or 150,000? The figure seems to have plucked out of the air.

Labour’s claims that they will end land banking and deliver the new homes that way not credible. There is already a “use or lose it provision” for property developers. Planning permission expires after three years.

Previously Labour claimed 400,000 houses could be provided through some magic formula of ending land banking. However Nick Boles has detailed how the figure is nonsense:

The notional 400,000 figure stems from a report commissioned by the Local Government Association undertaken by Glenigan using data sourced in December 2011. It notes that in 2011 there were 399,816 residential units with planning permission which were “unimplemented”. However, the report clearly distinguishes between sites under construction and sites which were unstarted.

Of that 400,000 units figure, 191,000 was private housing already under construction. A further 83,000 units were unimplemented provisions for social housing (and therefore, in no sense private sector developers ‘hoarding land’). The report also notes that the amount of unimplemented schemes has fallen by a third from 2008 to 2011, and the number of private, unstarted units has fallen from 206,000 in March 2008 to 127,000 in December 2011.

The era of the state building properties – with the Conservatives and Labour competing to plant the most tower blocks in our towns and cities – are thankfully over. At least if the state is building the houses – or paying for them to be built – that a party could say we will build x thousand houses we will find x billion pounds to pay for them through increasing this tax or cutting this spending item elsewhere.

Labour’s response is that they will have a policy review led by Sir Michael Lyon to see how their target could be delivered. That is tantamount to admitting that the Labour Party does not have the first clue as to how the extra homes could be guaranteed.


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