House Building Pre and Post War.

House Building Pre and Post War.

The main pledges from the Government with regard to house building includes:

  • Extend the “Right to buy” to 1.3m housing association homes in England
  • 200,000 homes built for first time buyers aged under 40 at 20% discount
  • New Help to Buy ISA’s for first time buyers to help them get a deposit for a house
  • Create a £1bn brownfield regeneration fund to unlock sites for 400,000 homes

These pledges for the record were pre Theresa May...

David Cameron during his time in office, admitted that the UK had suffered from a chronic shortage of housebuilding. He also stated that the action he had undertaken during his time in office meant that the UK was on course to deliver 200,000 new homes a year by 2017.

However, during the year 2009/2010, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government only 153,000 new homes were built. In 2013/2014, the number dropped again to a new low of 140,960 new homes.

He isn’t the first prime minister to promise to make house building his first priority and unable to fulfil his pledge. Gordon Brown had a target of 240,00 new homes a year, (Kate Barker a former Bank of England economist concluded that 240,000 homes were needed to be built every year to prevent a shortage of affordable homes). The credit crunch saw that pledge evaporate as only 153,000 homes were built in 2009-2010 as stated above.

Not every Conservative Government has missed its target. Winston Churchill in 1951 set his housing minister the task of building 300,000 homes a year.

The manifesto on which the Tories fought the 1951 election stated:

Housing is the first of the social services, it is also one of the keys to increased productivity. Work, family life, health and education are all undermined by crowded houses. Therefore, a Conservative and Unionist Government will give housing a priority second only to national defence. (Source; Conservativehome.com).

All of the Conservative/Tory candidates during that period had made housing a major commitment in their 1950 election address’s. Lengthy research policy papers had been produced on the subject. Harold Macmillan was key to the success or failure to that commitment. Although not a housing expert he was a successful businessman, director of Macmillan & Co, and the Great Western Railway. During the war he worked for the Ministry of supply and then went to high executive office to become “Viceroy of the new Mediterranean.

Macmillan was 57 when tasked with the job, he was said to be clever, ambitious and a great spotter of talent. Responsible for housing prior to Macmillan was Hugh Dalton, (Labour) who had succeeded in the yearly construction of 200,000 homes, achieved during the years, 1945-51.

Macmillan treated his task and indeed stated that the commitment to build 300,000 houses had to be treated as a “war job” and asked that it be done “in the spirit of 1940”.  From 30th October 1951 to 31st October 1952, 240,000 houses were completed. The following year 301,000 houses were completed and in 1953, 318,000 houses were completed. In 1954 nearly 350,000 houses were built, with a promise of at least as many in the next year.

The success of this project was down to the will of Macmillan and his ruthless application to the job, the use of businessmen, the freeing up of markets and the abolition of wartime rationing. They mobilised the resources of the state with the same zeal as in wartime. Modern day equivalents seem to lack the will or the desire to fulfil this manifesto pledge. It remains to be seen If Theresa May has the tenacity to see that housebuilding once again takes centre stage and fulfil the pledge left by David Cameron.

Advantage Property Lawyers, the Leeds conveyancers

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