Do governments over-rely on urban planning to deal with housing crises? (August 2020)

  • On 6 August 2020, the English authorities opened a public consultation about urban planning, in part aiming at tackling the housing crisis: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future

  • Some critics pointed that the government was over-relying too much on urban planning at the expense of ignoring other key factors affecting the housing crisis:

There has been some concern expressed about these proposals. The government makes comparisons with lower house prices in other countries to suggest that the planning system in England is at fault. Planning does impact housing supply and house prices – but so do a range of other factors.

The proposals have little to say about issues related to our land market and patterns of land ownership. It does not consider that in other countries, more proactive local state action in land assembly (buying sites and preparing them for development) helps the process of building.

It overlooks the potential of local authorities rather than private developers to deliver new housing. It ignores the way the private sector manages the rate of building out new housing even when it has planning permission, in order to maintain profitability. More fundamentally, it ignores the way flows of investment income impact housing demand and so affordability.

Further, it does not tackle the thorny issue of green belt reform. The large swathe of land protected from development around London will continue under these reforms, meaning that housing pressures in the south-east will be harder to tackle.

In other words, the reforms suggest the planning system is to blame for the housing crisis without acknowledging the multi-faceted nature of that crisis. Without tackling various other factors, it will fail to resolve the issues it seeks to address.

Source: England planning proposals aim to tackle housing crisis – but overlook key issues. By Ben Clifford. Published in The Conversation on 11 August 2020, https://theconversation.com/england-planning-proposals-aim-to-tackle-housing-crisis-but-overlook-key-issues-144099