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The housing dilemma—our new special report

How can Britain build more homes?

By Jay Elwes  

Successive governments have known that Britain has needed more housing and the construction industry agrees. So why hasn’t it happened? 

That is the question behind this collection of articles by experts, politicians and architects. The picture that emerges from what they have to say is a frustrating one. At the centre of it all is the planning system, designed to make sure new developments are socially and economically suitable, but which acts as a brake on progress. Politicians instinctively suspicious of large companies like the restraining influence of regulation—but in this case, one of the consequences is a shortage of places for people to live. 

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The new Planning Bill, introduced by the government in May, aims to loosen the planning rules and make it easier for local authorities to grant permission for new building. This will bring a new edge of political confrontation to the debate, not just across the Commons floor, but within the Conservative Party itself. Will traditional Tory voters in rural constituencies stand for all that development going on around them, under new rules imposed on by a PM whose constituency is one of the very few remaining Conservative seats in greater London?

And what of the high street? The world of retail has had a tough pandemic, and some very high-profile brands have vanished. Now that a sense of normality is returning, what will the new high street look like and how will that shape the look of city and town centres? Online retail has surged during Covid, and that has changed people’s view of shopping. Can the outside world match those new expectations?

Also contained here is a piece on the aftermath and legacy of the Grenfell Tower fire. Have we done enough on safety? The verdict is no, we have not, and that the bill for the necessary safety measures runs into the tens of billions. Who will pay that bill? What happens if we do not?


Contents

Everyone knows we need to build more homes. Why hasn’t it happened?
Housing is seen as an investment asset and high prices put homes out of the financial reach of much of the population
Jay Elwes

The focus of housebuilding initiatives must be on quantity—not so much on the type of housing
Less red tape and lower taxes will fix the problem
Bob Blackman

The government can’t leave the free market to solve the housing crisis
It’s not just about planning
Mike Amesbury

What modular construction methods can do to help Britain to build more homes
In the past modular construction was beset by setbacks—but could things be changing?
Ben Derbyshire

Britain’s housing in numbers
Expensive and exclusive, figures show homeownership remains a remote prospect for many
David McAllister

What will the future of retail look like?
Even with the successful rollout of vaccines seeming to offer a glimpse of a post-Covid future, intelligent retailers know that there will never be a return to “normal”
Tim Denison

Lessons from Grenfell
Has enough been done by the government on safety since the disaster and if not, why not?
Gill Kernick

From the sponsors

Can the British high street rise again?
The pandemic has brought us closer to home—and it might save our local businesses too
Claudia Conway

How we established a global fire safety standard
The UN has ratified the International Fire Safety Standard Common Principles, which RICS was instrumental in creating. While it will take time for governments to implement them, the impact should be felt immediately
Gary Strong

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