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Housing is increasingly being seen as a growth driver for the economy


Housing is increasingly being seen as a growth driver for the economy. Politicians from all parties are declaring the benefits of expanding house building. Increasingly we hear how the concept of garden cities is the answer to our housing problems with the ability to design and plan fresh neighborhoods, house styles, tenures and sustainability standards. We have read of ‘food landscapes’, of community agriculture and innovative transport systems. Such plans could be based on low land values that will enable us to provide cheap housing within such cities. These are worthy ideas but they can take twenty years to complete and during that time may extract the resources of our housebuilding industry. How does this help with the urgent housing crisis we face today though?


The concept of Garden cities is a distant distraction. What we need is an emphasis on local housing on a small scale that will provide housing for local residents as well as jobs for local tradesmen. We need this housing now. New homes built sustainably to replace old ones that are physically or economically obsolete, but what are we doing now to create such homes?


The Community Infrastructure Levy is a tax on new development that is being introduced by all local authorities. It means that for additional accommodation built on a site, a charge will be made. So for example, if an old derelict house is replaced by two new houses increasing the overall accommodation, as is often the case, a payment will be collected by the Local Authority. Far from encouraging local housing, we are taxing it.


Small scale development is invariably initiated on the margin. That is to say that the value of a site as development land is marginally more than the existing use value. Were it to be much higher, the site would probably have been developed years ago. The introduction of a tax on the proposed development will simply mean that less sites of this kind will become available for development. They would simply remain in their existing use. So no tax would be collected anyway.





The South East has done well to resist encroachment of development onto the Greenbeltand in areas of countryside. The effect of the Community Infrastructure Levy will inevitably decrease development of small sites in built up areas where infrastructure already exists and increase pressure for development in the countryside and the Greenbelt.


We should abandon the concept of Community Infrastructure Levy on small sites where dilapidated buildings are being replaced in favour of sustainable new homes in places where people need to live. We should encourage greater intensity of development of land, not tax it. We should make clear a building code that all builders work to, not the movable standard that demands endless costly consultants and computations. We should make planning more transparent and less prescriptive.


This can result in a short term gain bought by the resources that are available to us today, not a misguided levy to fund a far fetched future fantasy.





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