Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hunt and housing

Tristram Hunt, who is seeking selection as a Labour MP, agrees with the Tory Party that building on the green belt would be a 'retrograde step'.

It's better than, say, a Will Hutton article in that he spends a bit more time writing about the historical development of the green belt, and hence has less space for his musings on current policy challenges, but on the basis of this and his other columns on housing policy, his selection as a Labour candidate would, most definitely, be a retrograde step. Given that he is seeking to become Bob Wareing's successor, this is quite an achievement.

There is a difference between building on sections of the green belt which are scrubland, and which have been identified as suitable sites to build sustainable housing developments, and 'concreting over the counties'. The housing crisis can't be solved solely by building on brownfield sites, and there are choices to be made. If the priority is to meet the massive need for more and better housing, then as well as new 'eco-towns' and getting private developers to build on land which they have acquired, local councils and housing associations need to be able to build social housing on sites which they have identified, some of which are in the green belt.

It's often said that there is a consensus now that building more homes needs to be a top priority. But as well as the people who pretend that the problems are caused by how we allocate social housing, there are people like Hunt who claim to support the aim of more housing, but won't support the means needed.


At 8:04 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get the feeling this post is motivated more by a serious animus against Tristram Hunt than a serious examination of his arguments - after all what he seems to be saying is spend more money where Labour voters live, rather than out in the shires.

Not sure I agree with him, but abusing people who make rational arguments isn't the way to build the Labour Party.

At 8:18 pm , Blogger donpaskini said...

Where's the bit where he says 'spend more money where Labour voters live'? Building on the green belt isn't 'spending money out in the shires', it is expanding cities to increase the supply of housing for people who need it, who are mostly people who are currently living in unsuitable housing in cities.

I've got no animus against Tristram Hunt beyond the fact that he uses his column to make recommendations about housing policy without understanding the issue.

At 9:07 pm , Blogger Giant Lizard said...

There isn't actually an argument for future policy in Hunt's article is there?

A recap of various housing/green space related laws and movements dating from 60 years ago isn't making a case for specific future action.

At the risk of repeating donpaskini's argument wholesale - Hunt isn't arguing for a massive overhaul of housing quality in areas of low demand (principally ex-industrial North and Midlands) or measures to ease demand in the overheated South and London.

That would be an argument, possibly even a rational one; saying that if you wander round London a bit you'll see lots of brokendown brownfield sites crying out to be built in. That would be an assertion, and an observation that no one who lives in my part of London would recognise.

There are a lot of people who need affordable housing and either can't or won't move to low demand areas. Building on a few ex-hospitals and military bases will help, but not a lot. The 'green belt' is an outmoded concept and for the most part it ain't Labour voters who get to enjoy it. Defending it as a line that must never change, as in Hunt's article, is to housing to people who desperately need it.

Then claim to be doing it for their own good.

At 8:24 am , Anonymous jdc said...

Unfortunately the PM's official spokesman is still running with a form of words which seems designed to provide comfort to those who believe the green belt is all sacred ground.

Another thing we could do, and I'm going out on a limb here, if we haven't got enough houses for the number of people we expect to have, is think more carefully about whether using high levels of immigration as a tool of economic policy is in fact wise, since the primary impact is to hold down wage inflation while increasing the cost of housing, particularly at the lower end.

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