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Last updateThu, 16 Jun 2022 8am

Chasing the poor out of ‘nice’ areas – even when they belong there

Construction National blog logoAt the end of last month the NHBC released figures for new home registrations for the second quarter of the year. It makes grim reading. The figures show a decline of 24% in registrations compared to the same quarter last year. Private-sector registrations fell by 10%, driven by a decline for June compared to June last year, although April and May saw slight rises.

The real hammer blow came from public-sector registrations which fell by a massive 42% compared to last year. That was in the face of a soaring in demand to fill the ever-widening gap between housing supply and demand.

Richard Tamayo, the NHBC's commercial director, commented: "As the year progresses we must hope to see a rebound in social housing numbers as providers adapt to new methods of funding."

It turns out one of those methods of funding may be for local authorities and other social housing providers to sell their most valuable properties to finance building new ones. The idea came from the Policy Exchange, the 'think tank' that has been described as "the intellectual boot camp of the Tory modernisers".

The justification is couched in disarmingly reasonable terms. If councils own homes in more affluent areas of a town they should sell them to finance building cheaper ones, thus shortening the queue. The report says around 22% of council homes fall into that category – around 816,000 homes. With around 3.5% of homes becoming vacant each year, that means upward of 28,000 properties being sold.

I am reminded of a comment made by a neighbour when I lived in Ramsbottom in Lancashire. The neighbour explained that great play had been made when the houses were built to juggle the place name signs to allow the estate to be in Holcombe Brook, a suburb of Bury, as Ramsbottom was not a popular location at the time. As fashions changed the reverse became true and everybody wanted to live in Ramsbottom. House prices there rocketed, presumably putting council houses into the bracket that would require them to be sold off, if Policy Exchange gets its way. Local people of modest means would be forced out of their home town to be replaced by commuters from the city, a process described as social cleansing.

Staying with the NHBC, I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the winners of the first round in its competition for site managers, the Pride in the Job awards, had been announced. The paper version of Construction National will be reporting at length on some of the winners and interesting reading some of them make.

I have always been amused by how some of these developments come by their names. For example, you'd have to have a long memory to recall when any development with the word 'Meadows' in its name was last grazed by sheep, while Granges and Parks are equally likely to have been brownfield sites. I prefer the trend in cities to name new developments by their postcodes – you know what you're getting then. There should be a classification in the Construction Directory for 'Development namers'.

Chris Stokes