Though the ongoing Brexit tussles in Parliament and Brussels have unsurprisingly created something of a policy vacuum, there is perhaps no greater crisis in contemporary British politics than housing.
The extent of the problem is truly staggering. Since 1995, average house prices in the UK have increased by an astonishing 300 per cent – rising to as much as 1,000 per cent in some areas of London. No other OECD country’s experience has even come close.
When it comes to housing costs, British families are some of the worst off in Europe, spending, by one recent estimate, more than 40% of their household income on rent or mortgage payments.
Lack of affordable housing is having a devastating effect on our cost of living and career prospects. It is a major driver of homelessness, and lowers productivity by reducing labour mobility. The housing crisis also has a far-reaching impact on personal lives; with millions of young people struggling to save and, in some cases, being forced to postpone major milestones like marriage, starting a family or moving jobs. Such developments should be deeply concerning to both large and small ‘c’ conservatives.
How on earth did we reach this dysfunctional position, and what can we do about it?
Let’s start by rebalancing supply and demand. Britain’s onerous planning regulations, the most restrictive in the OECD, not only protect rural land, preventing development in arbitrary defined green belt areas, but have also made urban redevelopment complex and costly.