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Lib Dems: Treasury ‘exploring’ direct funding for housebuilding

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The government is looking at directly commissioning new homes if the private-sector and housing-associations fail to reach pre-set targets, senior Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander has said.

The chief secretary to the Treasury in the coalition told a fringe meeting at the Lib Dem conference that such a move could in kick in if housebuilding levels were forecast to fall below pre-determined targets.

He said the scale of the nation’s housing problem meant it was worth exploring how ‘direct intervention’ could lift housing numbers, according to a BBC report of the conference event in Glasgow.

Alexander said Treasury officials had begun work on the proposals, but that the plans were likely to face hurdles and were unlikely to be part of the party’s manifesto for next year’s General Election.

‘A truly radical approach would be for the government to also have a direct role in house-building, not just affordable house-building but in the private market also,’ he said.

‘Government could form a view of the amount of housing needed at any point in the cycle.

‘If this number was less than the amount that was expected to be built - in the private sector, the housing associations, the local authorities combined - then you would have a capacity for the government to step in, to place orders, to pay contractors, build houses, work out how and when they need to be sold.

‘It would be an unprecedented change in housing policy, guaranteeing numbers of house-building not seen since the post-war era.’

The Liberal Democrats have set a housebuilding of 300,000 new homes a year.

Earlier in the week Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg pledged to begin the construction of 10 garden cities if his party stayed in government after the next election.

Clegg said five of the new garden-city developments would be located on a new rail link between Oxford and Cambridge.

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