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Government's quick fix lacks necessary quality


In a recent statement, Alan Milburn MP referred to the inequality of opportunity between children born with assets such as parents' own home, and those without. He emphasised the increased social mobility enabled by an inheritance of property and the security and stability it can provide.

This is, I believe, a vital issue - property ownership now forms the biggest single asset of most families that can afford it. This is why I believe that the government's anti-competitive stance towards an unproven method of housing construction is both damaging and unwise.

While, of course, the housing shortage in the South East is in need of a solution, for the government to prescribe quickfix, lightweight, prefabricated methods is counter-productive.

The government's job is to produce policy, not to determine or specify which commercial organisations carry such policy out.

Through inheritance, home ownership allows people to provide for their children's future and insure the success and stability of their family. Thus, the homes that people are buying today are expected and needed to last for many years to come. This is why a tried and tested, proven and effective house type is not only preferable but absolutely essential to the security of the wider economy.

Our homes are inextricably linked to our - and our children's - financial future. Brick and block have formed the foundation of the British home for centuries and many are still standing that were built hundreds of years ago.

Lightweight prefabricated methods of building have no track record, no proof of longevity and no history of providing a robust, durable investment for the future.

This is upheld by recent comment from the Association of British Insurers, whose spokesperson said of lightweight prefabrication that: 'What we build today has got to be facing the elements in 50 years' time. Crucially, nobody has taken account of this so far If certain types of construction become associated with problems then they will be more expensive to insure.'

The unproven nature of lightweight prefabricated homes makes them an unsound investment for private homeowners to hang their financial future on. Similarly, they are an unsound investment for the country should John Prescott's plans to build social and keyworker housing by these means across the South East come to fruition.

The housing crisis cannot and will not be solved by a quick fix. What is needed is not speed, on which the emphasis is currently being laid, but quality so that the newly built homes of today really are the shelter, capital and social mobility of the future.

Barry Holmes, executive director, Traditional Housing Bureau

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