The secret to overcoming NIMBYism is to ensure that enough new homes are genuinely affordable so that children of local voters aren’t forced away and that enough new infrastructure is put in place to ensure GP services, schools and roads aren’t overwhelmed. All of this leads me to believe that we need new towns rather than lots more ad hoc, small developments. We need a large amount of building in a small number of areas rather than a small amount of building in a large number of areas. We need a lot more Ebbsfleet Garden Cities where public money underwrites the infrastructure that new communities depend upon.
The Tories know that the housing issue is resonant and that nearly twice as many voters (37%) think the coalition government is not on course to solve the housing crisis than think it is on track (22%). The Help to Buy policy is regularly and spontaneously raised by voters with the prime minister at campaign events. Despite its flawed nature (and, personally, I think it’s very flawed) it is also very popular. I expect the Tory manifesto to offer something significant on the housing front to lower income Britons – the party certainly needs a new offer if it is to catch up with what Labour and the Liberal Democrats are also offering.
The housing crisis is a particular crisis for the Conservatives – the party I support. Just as Labour is held back from serving the national interest by public sector unions, the Conservatives are held back by housing nimbies. To put it crudely the Tories rely on homeowners for their core vote and Labour relies upon dependence on a growing public sector and welfare vote. Unless the party finds a way of reversing the decline in home ownership that previous Tory leaders, notably Harold Macmillan and Winston Churchill, delivered it will continue to be a minority force in British politics. 1992 might be the last time the Tories ever win a majority.