Vast UK housing problem demands ‘vastly ambitious solution’, says Eversheds’ Dear

Eversheds partner and real-estate expert Bruce Dear has commented on news that David Cameron would be prepared to curtail the Help to Buy scheme in the UK to help prevent a bubble in the housing market.

‘Without greater vision, the UK housing crisis will never be solved,’ said Dear. ‘For the last 30 years, UK housing policy has been a simplistic shambles — a one-gear car. Every five years we re-inflate the debt bubble and promote a mortgage boom.

‘That’s not a policy. That’s an artificial happy hour. The predictable real-estate hangover always follows. The good news is that we can do better than this because the UK has solved housing crises before.’

According to Dear, the current housing shortage is a national crisis and can only be solved by direct government intervention. He said that the public debate tends to miss the point, concentrating on housing hot spots, such as Hyde Park flats worth hundreds of millions. What this country needs, Dear added, is hundreds of thousands of flats and houses in the £30,000 to £200,000 bracket and a thriving private and social rented sector.

He continued: ‘This huge problem demands a vastly ambitious solution. It is too big for the public or private sector to solve alone.’

State investment and social provision must play a large part, he said, and the government should match institutional investment into building new towns, garden cities and housing estates and make such developments tax- and stamp-duty-free zones.

The Eversheds partner also said that each of the new garden cities and town developments should be enterprise zones (such as the 1980s Docklands Development Corporation). Special powers should be given to those running them to make housing happen without bureaucratic and planning fetters, and the house builders and supermarkets should be incentivised to release their land banks as part of the policy.

Dear also recommended that planning controls should be loosened to enable build-to-rent and Green Belt development, while local councils should be prepared to put their covenants on long leases and to contribute their excess land and offices to a National Crusade for Housing.

He concluded: ‘Chronic under-supply of property cannot go on forever without promoting huge social and inter-generational tensions. For all of our sakes, we must work together to create a comprehensive solution to this shortage.’