Housing and Planning

House building pledge is just a cunning PR strategy

Danny Alexander’s plan to make the state a major player in housebuilding is just the latest in a line of useless political schemes to appease all the wrong people and let down all the right ones. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury made no effort to tell us why the state would be particularly good at building houses any more than it would be good at baking bread or brewing beer. It is not clear whether his scheme would even boost housing numbers.

Take the government’s first foray into building for a while, which involves 10,000 new homes at Northstowe, a derelict RAF base in Cambridgeshire. What would have happened to that site otherwise? Presumably private developers would have bought that land and done similar things to it anyway. The only difference is this would have made regional, not national, news and so no-one would have given Coalition ministers a pat on the back.

Statist types say the government can grant itself fast-track planning permission. But why not do that for developers, or indeed just speed up the planning process generally? That ministers even need to boast about ‘fast-tracking’ their own planning application just shows how hopeless the system is for everyone else.

If ministers were worried that a developer might buy up the land and then sit on it until its value rose, they could have slapped a covenant on it forcing the buyer to develop within a certain timeframe.

All Alexander and his colleagues are interested in is a cunning PR strategy that involves preventing widespread housebuilding with a useless planning system, thereby keeping the Nimbys happy, and then taking credit for little spurts of development in convenient locations. Voters should not let them get away with it.

This article was originally published on The Spectator’s Coffee House blog.

Head of Political Economy

Dr Kristian Niemietz is the IEA's Editorial Director, and Head of Political Economy. Kristian studied Economics at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and the Universidad de Salamanca, graduating in 2007 as Diplom-Volkswirt (≈MSc in Economics). During his studies, he interned at the Central Bank of Bolivia (2004), the National Statistics Office of Paraguay (2005), and at the IEA (2006). He also studied Political Economy at King's College London, graduating in 2013 with a PhD. Kristian previously worked as a Research Fellow at the Berlin-based Institute for Free Enterprise (IUF), and taught Economics at King's College London. He is the author of the books "Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies" (2019), "Universal Healthcare Without The NHS" (2016), "Redefining The Poverty Debate" (2012) and "A New Understanding of Poverty" (2011).

1 thought on “House building pledge is just a cunning PR strategy”

  1. Posted 11/12/2014 at 12:41 | Permalink

    feeling a bit ranty, Kristian?

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