Question is is whether Lib Dems have been fobbed off with a pilot and whether Osborne is serious
The Government will ‘build and sell’ family homes in a desperate bid to end Britain’s housing crisis, ministers revealed today.
Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander said 300,000 new homes a year were needed but building firms were failing to meet the demand.
He said this had forced ministers to ‘think radically’ and consider using taxpayers’ money to kick start a new housing boom.
Mr Alexander said: ‘The message to the housebuilding sector would be simple: if you don’t build them, we will.’
The proposal – unveiled today ahead of George Osborne’s crunch Autumn Statement tomorrow – will be trialled at a former RAF base in Cambridgeshire and could lead to homes being built twice as fast as the more conventional route.
Launching the National Infrastructure Plan, which also includes details of £15 billion of road projects, £2.3 billion of flood defences and a range of energy programmes, Mr Alexander said the Government had to act to address the housing shortage.
He said £100 million was being made available for the new garden city at Ebbsfleet, ministers will back the development of a 13,000-home new town at Bicester, in Oxfordshire, and the extension of the London Overground to Barking Riverside will help unlock the construction of up to 11,000 properties.
The affordable homes programme will also be extended for a further two years, Mr Alexander said.
But in order to meet the demand for 300,000 new homes a year ‘requires us to think radically’.
‘An idea that I have been promoting is direct government commissioning of housing. Government – national or local – would take responsibility for ensuring the number of homes we need each year.
‘The message to the housebuilding sector would be simple: if you don’t build them, we will.’
There will be a detailed review to examine the potential of direct government commissioning and the Homes and Communities Agency will lead on delivering up to 10,000 new properties at the former RAF base at Northstowe in Cambridgeshire to trial the model.
‘Now it’s just a disused RAF base but soon it will be a development of up to 10,000 homes thanks to the pioneering action this Government has taken in trialling the new delivery model,’ Mr Alexander said.
‘This is the first time in a generation that the Government has owned land, led the development on it at this scale and considered commissioning homes directly.’
The model would allow homes to be built quicker and give the state the ability to ‘ensure developers build the most appropriate type of houses and the right associated infrastructure’.
Mr Alexander said: ‘We are examining in more detail the idea of direct commissioning as a solution for the whole country and piloting it on this enormously important site.’
Asked whether the need to build more homes would require the development of greenfield sites, Mr Alexander said he did not ‘necessarily accept’ that would be the case.
‘That’s something that would need to be worked through in delivering this,’ he said.
He said redeveloping public sector land, such as Northstowe, could help meet the demand: ‘We have released sites in this parliament for about 100,000 homes, we think. We want to see a much more ambitious approach in the next parliament.
‘I think that is something that can really help to meet this agenda.’
Meanwhile Treasury Commercial Secretary Lord Deighton said the compulsory purchase scheme could be changed, making it easier for people’s homes to be bought to clear the way for major infrastructure projects.
He said: ‘We will be publishing a consultation paper at the next Budget to streamline and update the compulsory purchase regime to make it clearer, faster and fairer.’
Is this so different from Lyon’s ‘guaranteed delivery’ not really. Note how the Libs have announced Northstowe (cambridge lib seat) and Cons Bicester (con seat) as if they were different programmes but from same pot of money.