Whoever solves the housing crisis will reap the rewards
With the average age of a Conservative Party member now rumoured to be at 71, 20 years older than the average Labour Party member, how to reconnect with voters under the age of 35 was a recurring topic of conversation this week.
You might have missed it amidst the fascination with ‘Moggmentum’, Boris’ leadership manoeuvrings and the Prime Minister’s excruciating speech. But at a fringe event during Conservative Party Conference this week, over half of Tory members in the room voted to scrap the Green Belt altogether.
It is the clearest sign yet that the housing crisis which I and others have been writing about for years is beginning to bite the party of government. After seven years in power (and potentially another five ahead) the sense of panic amongst Conservative councillors and grassroots members about the harm that the housing market is doing to the party’s electoral prospects was palpable.
Andy Burnham’s landslide victory in the GM Mayoral elections demonstrates the potency of an electoral message focussed on providing affordable housing; and not just for those wanting to buy.
The trouble for the Tories is that the solutions on offer to solve the problem – extra money for Help to Buy and a further £2bn to help local authorities build more social housing – are not radical enough to solve the problem and will be seen by voters as being Corbyn-lite.
With Jeremy Corbyn promising to build one million new homes; give local residents ‘first dibs’ on new homes built in their area; bring in rent controls and ensure that tenants are rehoused locally when estates are regenerated; it is clear to see how younger voters are turning to the party to help them fulfil their housing aspirations.
But with a Prime Minister who has lost her authority it is hard to see the Government coming up with a bold or radical solution, such as scrapping the Green Belt, that will strike a chord with those struggling to get on the housing ladder and persuade them that the Tories are on their side.
Their failure to do so may well mean that a generation of voters agree that the shortage of affordable housing is a ‘national outrage’ but it isn’t the Government which has the answers.
Community engagement and stakeholder has long been an expectation of local authorities for major development proposals. The revised NPPF makes this expectation a requirement.
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