13 February 2017
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The Government’s assessment that the housing market is broken is correct and is as true in Ryedale and surrounding areas as anywhere in the country. The latest Government figures for Ryedale are for 2014 and show that the average house price was £185,000, nine times the average income in the area. The result is that many local people, especially young people trying to become independent or start a family, are unable to buy their own home and face an indefinite wait for social housing. In Ryedale last year there were almost 800 families waiting for social rented housing and only 240 families housed.
The root cause of the problem, in Ryedale as nationally, is a long term failure of the market to meet people’s needs and an equally long term failure of governments to do anything about it. It’s progress that the government has finally recognised that there is a serious problem which is adversely affecting many people’s lives. However, as Jeremy Corbyn stated in his response to the white paper, the government’s proposals for mending the market are ‘feeble beyond belief’. The main thrust of the new Government policy seems to be to blame local authorities for not providing enough land, while the real problem is land owners forcing prices up and builders stockpiling land as an investment. There are no significant new initiatives for intervention to change the market.
In the past local authorities had the power and the resources to build enough houses to meet the needs not met by the private sector. The rot in the market started back in the 1970’s when Margaret Thatcher at the same time as promoting the sell-off of council houses barred local authorities from building to replace the stock sold. These policies continue to this day. And the large scale house builders continue to fail to meet the demand for houses that people on lower incomes can afford.
What is needed is a large scale programme of public sector housebuilding to increase the supply and specifically to make sure that the families that need affordable housing most get it. There is a local twist to this too because people in an area like Ryedale are in competition with people from outside the area who have the cash to buy into the market. This both pushes prices up and simultaneously denies local families access to the limited supply.
A programme of public sector house building, whether for rent or sale, would have the benefit of being able to ensure that local families got priority access to the additional houses produced.