There’s a sea change in housing and Theresa May’s calling out of volume housebuilders is part of a toughening attitude, writes Will Hurst
Housing developers are getting a lot of stick these days. In a speech delivered on Monday at the National Planning Conference, prime minister Theresa May became the latest to get in on the act, warning volume housebuilders not to take government subsidies for granted. ‘Public investments in infrastructure and schemes such as Help to Buy have provided a real boost to housebuilders,’ she said. ‘If they want that to continue, they will have to raise their game.’
While May did not mention Persimmon by name, it was likely that the firm’s £200 million-plus management bonuses and rather less impressive housing delivery numbers were in her mind when she lamented the fact that such bonuses are based ‘not on the number of homes they build but on their profits or share price’.
The housing crisis has now reached such a pitch that May is beginning to sound like Jeremy Corbyn
Tory governments are usually friendly to this sector but the housing crisis has now reached such a pitch (and is presumably seen as such a threat to the government) that May is beginning to sound like Jeremy Corbyn. The pill she forces volume housebuilders to swallow could become more bitter still, depending on the results of a review into land banking led by former minister Oliver Letwin, which is set to report this week.
And it’s not just the volume housebuilders that are under fire. As the AJ noted in a recent news feature on estate regeneration in London, a political change in the air has put developers such as Lendlease and Capco under pressure to rethink large-scale residential-led masterplans in Haringey and Earl’s Court. This follows accusations that the schemes don’t provide enough affordable housing and are not in keeping with the wishes of their local communities.
Meanwhile the ongoing £9 billion Malaysian-backed redevelopment of Battersea Power Station is becoming a rallying point for the opposition Labour group in the forthcoming Wandsworth Council elections, due to a 40 per cent reduction last year in the number of affordable homes planned for the site. There are also new fears of overdevelopment around the Giles Gilbert Scott-designed Grade II*-listed landmark.
What was deemed acceptable in housing development only months ago suddenly seems unacceptable. Architects in this sector should take note.
This article appears in the Homes issue