Better Homes, Greener Cities

A Policy Exchange report into the problems with the housing system in the UK.

In the final part of 3 reports, this report shows that too few houses are built in Britain because local communities have no incentives to support new development. A poll conducted for the report by Populus reveals that, despite rising incomes, 75% of respondents believe that a family home with a garden is less affordable than twenty years ago. Respondents overwhelmingly feel that planning should be controlled locally.

Over the past 50 years town planning has lost sight of its original objectives, those of providing decent homes and a decent living environment for the people of Britain. Particular groups have been able to get policies favourable to themselves adopted because the economic costs they impose on others have not been seen. Green Belts – which were intended to be relatively narrow and primarily used for recreation – were put in place and expanded in width, but continued to be used for farming. The shire counties used Green Belts to hold back the influence of the nearby city. The recreational uses disappeared and the Green Belts became green blankets – or more accurately green barriers – designed to keep urban inhabitants from spoiling the lives of those living in the countryside. And often they were not even very green, i.e. not places of ‘unspoilt’ nature but of industrialised and intensive agriculture.

In our report we have shown that there are ways to improve this situation. We believe that it is possible for Britons to enjoy stable house prices, affordable accommodation, green cities and modern, spacious houses – very much like their neighbours on the continent. We believe that two major sets of reforms are required to tackle Britain’s housing crisis: Reform of the planning system itself; and reform of the fiscal incentives and the system of local government finance itself.

Click here to read the full publication

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