Unlocking housing market will boost Norfolk growth

Commenting on the Montague Report on housing, published today, Jonathan Cage, Managing Director, Create Consulting Engineers Ltd and Chair of the Norfolk Chamber Planning group said:

“The housing market has had little or no government support since the start of the recession unlike other industries, instead it has knuckled down, reshaped and amazingly is ready to meet the challenges as we come out of recession.  The last few years has lead to the shortage in houses being constructed dropping further behind the required targets, the whole industry now needs to push forward with confidence to start delivering the much needed housing required in the UK.  We now need the recent planning reforms to work, along with the release of funding for developments and motivated land owners. This coupled with a more positive, realistic outlook from the planning authorities  will enable the regions house building industry to get on, delivering a quick and much needed boost to the economy.

Paul Clarke from  Bidwells said:

“This is a further Government report that confirms how important housebuilding is to contributing to economic growth, and how how as a nation we never meet our housing requirement.  The key element to this report is the importance of the private rented sector which could provide high quality accommodation.  This form of development could provide flexible accommodation to allow potential employees to take up jobs - the difficulty will be reinvigorating this part of the housing market when financing is not readily geared for it.  There remains an inertia in the development system and it fundamentally relates to access to finance.  If major investors such as Aviva want to invest in building in the residential market, rather than stocks and shares, then this could help. We can continue to modify and amend the planning system, however, unless landowners are incentivised to release land/buildings, and developers/investors can see an ability to make profit through the delivery of housing, the residential market will remain stalled.

The move in tenure from owner-occupied to private-rented is significant and the 'Englishman's home is his castle' remains a fundamental part of our psyche.  It may be long overdue given that the bias in most other European countries is towards private rented.  It is important, however, to recognise that an ability for potential employees to take up jobs wherever they may be is vital to a revived and more balenced economy. “

Steve Lucas from paul robinson partnership (uk) llp commented:

“The suggestion of councils to consider relaxing requirements for developers to build affordable social accommodation as well as private housing would seem on the face of it a sensible approach. The housing sector, in particular, is in dire need of invigoration and offering prospective developers the opportunity to maximize their returns could provide the kick-start that is needed. However, yet more ‘tinkering’ with planning policy could, in the short term, actually stall impending housing projects as developers postpone decisions whilst awaiting the outcome of potential legislative changes.”

Caroline Williams CEO Norfolk Chamber commented:

“A housing market that doesn’t deliver the right number of homes, in the right place, at the right price and of the right quality, has a negative impact on business. Studies show that high housing costs cause labour shortages, especially when companies try to recruit workers in high-cost areas at the lower end of the pay scale. Furthermore, a poorly-functioning housing market may force employees to live further away from their place of work which drives up congestion along key routes and is bad for the environment.

“A better functioning private rented sector is essential to improving the Norfolk housing market particularly at a time when the high cost of housing puts home ownership beyond the reach of many. We welcome the measures contained in the Montague Report to improve the private-rented sector, but these measures will not be enough on their own to radically improve the supply of new homes across the country.

“A poorly designed planning system and availability of land has for too long prevented development and growth. We would like a firm commitment from the government to increase the amount of available land, which will go some way to delivering new and much-needed housing. In some cases, it may be necessary to review the greenbelt status of land with little amenity value, which could be better used to provide jobs and homes. At a time when the economy is stagnating, it is vital that the government does everything possible to unlock house building which will in turn, boost much-needed growth in the Norfolk economy.”

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