Conservative Brexit heavyweights weigh into housing debate

Conservatives Daniel Hannan MEP and Boris Johnson MP have written articles in the Daily Telegraph about the need to address the housing crisis, demonstrating the ever-increasing political weight the issue holds within the party.

Writing in the Telegraph, which normally takes a protectionist line with regards to the Green Belt, Daniel Hannan argues that the resolution of the housing crisis lies in easing restrictions on building in the Green Belt, and labels much of it as “intensely farmed and ugly”.

Mr Hannan said:

“We all like the idea of spacious countryside and fear that new houses might clutter it (though, even in my relatively crowded South East England constituency, around 85 per cent of land is wholly underdeveloped) … The present Government recognises the need to build more houses. But the problem will remain until we can build some of them on land that was arbitrarily designated Green Belt.”

Meanwhile, writing in the same paper Boris Johnson has taken aim at developers, arguing that “we need to kickstart the housing market by kicking the developers.” In a scathing piece, Johnson identifies housing supply as the root of the problem, and argues for the liberation of more brownfield sites, the release of publicly owned land for development, cutting stamp duty and the removal of the “ideological obsession” with affordable housing quotas.

Turning his attention to developers, Johnson wrote:

“They have been reduced by the 2008 crash from dozens to only three big companies – an oligopoly in what is the most important market, socially and politically, in the country. They are blatantly landbanking to keep prices high.

“There are about half a million unused permissions to build, and instead of making use of their opportunities these developers are treating their buyers like serfs, and refusing to fix their windows – because they know exactly how difficult and expensive it is to get a new home and to some extent they are making it difficult. They have the land, they plainly have the cash, and it is time they used both to build the homes the country needs – and not wall up cats while they are at it.”

The issue of housebuilding continues to dominate the discourse amongst senior Conservative politicians, and it is certainly changed times to see a Tory politician from the South East of England such as Daniel Hannan advocating for looser protection of the Green Belt, and to see Boris Johnson attacking private developers in full length articles in the national press. It is clear that this issue will continue to create discord amongst the Conservatives and the Labour Party, with housebuilding and the Green Belt likely to take a key role in any future Conservative leadership election.


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