The Green Party have chosen Oxford to launch their policy document on Housing last night. Courtesy of the BBC, I have had a preview....... and whilst there are some un-deliverable aspects of the document, there has clearly been some recognition that simply building more houses will not, on it's own, solve the housing crisis. Among the ideas that are postulated one that might have legs is a proposal to allow local authorities to buy stock on the open market, and directly from developers. Such a policy here in Oxford might have been a better solution to the Barton Park development; allowing the city to maximise the value of the land, and maintain a less compromised planning relationship with the developers and giving them additional resources to "buy back" units that could be available for social housing. Their policy document states "All new housing should be built to improved standards for accessibility, space and facilities, ergonomics, sound and thermal insulation and energy efficiency." I think that we could all agree that there should be increased emphasis on improving the quality of new build property, with greater emphasis on reducing carbon both in the build process itself and during occupancy. Other measures proposed with in the document, that might have sympathy from a range of voters will include the development of Housing Co-operatives.
It is a pity that the Green Party have not cast their policy eye across the water to Europe. There is some consensus among property professionals that engaging institutional investors in the Private Rented Sector, might be a creative way to meet the increasing need for housing stock without undermining property values which have been so instrumental in the "feel good" factor that seems to be driving the perceived economic growth. Rebalancing the supply/demand matrix is after all the desirable solution to the Housing Crisis.
There are some policies outlined in the document that are quite frankly pie in the sky...... Linking rents to "local median incomes" would be completely impossible. How would a local median income be calculated here in Oxford where so many people have no income (as students) and where so many work in London. If there was an adjustment downwards of rents in Oxford, landlords who are on tight margins already would struggle to meet mortgage repayments and lenders might choose to re-possess the stock. Legalising squatting is another policy that will receive little sympathy here in Oxford. Before the recent criminalisation of squatting, we had to advise students that they could not remove all possessions from their houses during the Summer Holiday, as professional squatters would target empty student properties and this would cause huge distress and cost to student families.