I miss the days of George Osborne’s Chancellorship – wearing his hardhat and hi-vis jacket, he must have visited every new home building site in the UK!
For the last few years, the nearest Philip Hammond has got to donning a ‘Bob the Builder’ outfit was at his grandchild’s birthday party. However, in what appears to be a new change in focus by the Tories to ensure they get back in power in 2022, they have fallen in love with house building again with the Chancellor recently promising to create 300,000 new households in a year.
Nationally, the number of new homes created has topped 217,344 in the last year, the highest since the financial crash of 2007-08. Looking closer to home saw a total of 696 ‘net additional dwellings’ in the Ashford Borough Council area over the last 12 months, a modest 25% increase on the 2010 figure.
The figures show that 49% of this additional housing was from new build properties with 343 new dwellings being built over the last year in Ashford. In addition, there were 377 additional dwellings created from converting commercial or office buildings into residential property.
While these all added to the total housing stock in the Ashford area, there were 24 demolitions to take into account:
I was encouraged to see some of the new households in the Ashford area had come from a change of use. Planning laws were changed a few years back so that, in certain circumstances, owners of properties didn’t need planning permission to switch office space to residential use.
With the scarcity of building land available locally (or developers being very slow to build on what they have, for fear of flooding the market), it was pleasing to see the developers had reutilised vacant office space into residential homes in the local council area. Converting offices and shops to residential use will be vital in helping to solve the Ashford housing crisis especially since, as you can see on the graph below, the level of building has hardly been spectacular over the last seven years!
Now, with the Autumn Budget, Theresa May and Philip Hammond have clearly set out their stall to place housing as a key focus. I was glad to see the Government introduce a variety of changes to improve housing, including more funding for the supply side and a new injection of urgency into the planning system.
The biggest question though is, exactly where are the Government intending to build all these new homes? Maybe a topic for a future article?
Back to the main point, though, and this focus on the housing market by the Tories is good news for all homeowners and buy to let landlords, as it will encourage fluidity in the market in the longer term, sharing the wealth and benefits of homeownership for all. However, in the short term, demand still far outstrips supply for homes and that can only mean continued upward pressure on rents for tenants.