29 September 2009

A disturbing but constructive and excellent report on housing, Mind the gap, has just been published. Read it here.

Mind the gap points out that we need many, many more houses for new households and to replace ageing houses. It recounts how in the past thirty years we have failed to build enough and now have a grotesque backlog, worsened by the economic difficulties which cripple construction and, unnecessarily, shut off mortgages. Belatedly the Labour government has recognised this backlog and its abysmal housing failure and has provided a deal of money for new housing and mortgages: see the table on page 16 of the report which totals more than £13 billion, assuming no overlap or recycling.

One of the reasons for failure to build for people is other people. On page 8 there is a telling survey which shows most people supporting more houses and simultaneously opposing them in their area.

For Cornwall the report presents difficult questions.

Mere opposition to 70 000 new houses here, as proposed by the Regional Development Agency, is insufficient. There were about 18 000 households on the affordable housing waiting lists of Cornwall councils at 1 April 2008: see the data from the Department for communities here . At the current rate of building it will take a depressingly and scandalously long time to house everyone on it today and new people are registering all the time. The opponents must consider the evidence on present housing need and projections and say how the need in Cornwall, now and in the future, can be met.

Too much time has been spent — wasted — fuming at second homes. Whatever one thinks about them, an irrelevancy or a drain, energy should now be put into supporting ambitious house building programs for rent and for purchase by local people: that should be the unrelenting focus. It does not mean opposing housing for migrants to Cornwall or “unaffordable” housing.

In all this there has to be practicality and viability and change if we are to succeed. For example, there are not enough brownfield sites in Cornwall to meet need and we have to accept some incursions into fields. If we wish to avoid mono-tenure estates and secure mixed-tenure housing developments, which are cohesive not divisive, we have to relax the present rules about where private houses can be built.

What is needed now is a positive response from people and parties and groups in Cornwall.

Other posts on affordable housing and Cornwall
Affordable housing and Cornwall Part 1
Affordable housing and Cornwall Part 2
Affordable housing and Cornwall Part 3
Affordable housing and Cornwall Part 4

Goldilocks and Cornwall