Today’s thoroughly depressing announcement by the Local Government Association that they would like to charge housebuilders council tax on homes that they haven’t yet built – the theory is that a £1,000/yr charge would be just the thing that sparks our developers into action to build out sites – is the latest in a sorry run of initiatives designed to kick-start housebuilding in the UK.
When will we learn that our developers – the larger ones at least, who account for 60-70% of all new homes in the UK – are perfectly happy churning out 8-12,000 homes each and don’t really want to do any more, thank you very much? The share prices and profits of these companies are exceptionally healthy and the boards, I’m told, base their business models on this kind of output. The idea of a punitive council tax is about the least likely thing to electric shock them into suddenly deciding to build 25,000 each.
It’s very rare that I have sympathy for developers but the idea misses the point that council tax, as far as I understand it, is a local charge on local people for the use of local services. To bastardise it into some sort of battering ram is totally against the spirit of it.
I would say this, but we need a deep-ranging, strategic revolution in the way we build homes in this country. We need to listen like Alastair Parvin and his views; we need more self-build; and we need much greater flexibility in our planning process. We need radical change that enable people to create exactly what they need. Building homes through self-build allows a demand-led approach to homes rather than a supply-side process. It’s actually surprisingly simple to do. I just wish politicians would have the vision to change housing for a generation.