Is the Prime Minister a YIMBY or a NIMBY? After yesterday’s speech announcing the new NPPF it is hard to tell.
Certainly the rhetoric was strong. Theresa May understood “why young people are so angry” because the housing crisis “is one of the biggest barriers to social justice” in the country. As such, she urged housebuilders “to do their duty for Britain and build the homes our country needs”.
Yet the policies announced were shorn of the radical proposals championed privately by the Housing, Communities & Local Government Secretary, such as allowing local councils to borrow more in order to build. Instead, a series of cautious measures have been proposed which whilst welcome are unlikely to resonate with target voters under the age of 35.
Moreover, the Prime Minister’s mixed messages around protections for the Green Belt and the role of Neighbourhood Plans; versus a willingness to crackdown on NIMBY councils who fail to meet the housing needs of their area; perhaps reflect the political realities of a government without a majority and limited bandwidth beyond Brexit.
But coming hot on the heels of research from the Resolution Foundation which shows that millennials are half as likely to own a home by the time they are 30 than baby-boomers, radicalism is perhaps what is needed.
Back in October 2017 I wrote from the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester about the harm that Tory councillors and members felt the national housing crisis was doing to the party’s electoral prospects. During one fringe event, over half of the audience voted to scrap the Green Belt altogether as a radical solution to tackling the housing shortage.
Many senior Tories accept that the party’s electoral prospects rely upon their ability to foster a property-owning democracy and they are increasingly frustrated at what they see as a failure of the market to build the number of homes needed.
The danger for the Government is that many of the measures proposed (such as reducing the time limit for planning approvals and the threats of compulsion for housebuilders accused of land banking) will either not register with voters or be seen to be ‘Corbyn-lite’.