The largest item in my mailbag remains the shortage of affordable housing. New Forest District Council has the very difficult and unenviable task of allocating the scarce supply of social housing between the pressing needs of families in various states of distress, many of whom have been waiting for years. Often they write to me in the quite mistaken belief that I have some power to ‘intervene’ and get them further ahead in the queue.
For years we have not built sufficient houses to afford people born and brought up in the area any prospect of being able to find somewhere to buy or rent. The District Council’s plan for the next couple of decades makes a bold attempt to address this. Given the sensitivity of our rural environment, that plan is bound to be controversial.
Building land is essential, but it is not enough. The problem is that the demand for housing has outstripped the supply, driving the price beyond the reach of much of the market. We need a sufficient increase in supply as to drive prices down again so that they are once more affordable. I am persuaded however, that builders will not deliver that increase to the extent necessary: high prices suit them very well, particularly given their preference for addressing the more profitable higher end of the market. For this reason, despite my long held preference for free enterprise, I am looking for the Housing White Paper, which is to be published this week, to give the green light to much greater involvement by the public sector: councils need to build more.