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Last updateThu, 16 Jun 2022 8am

Could movement in the housing market be accompanied by the grinding to a halt of HS2?

Construction National blog logoThere has been a great deal of hullabaloo in the mortgage industry about the imminent upsurge in property prices, following on (predictably) from the government’s Help-to-Buy scheme and other initiatives, resulting in what developers are hoping for and the mortgage industry is trying to create: yet another house price boom, pricing young families out of the market yet again. When are we going to learn?

 The Mortgage Advice Bureau is trumpeting that the number of homes being built in up by a third on last year. The organisation refers to figures released on 15 August by the Department for Just About Everything.

It quotes communities minister Brandon Lewis as saying: “Today’s figures clearly show government action is bringing confidence back into the housing market and getting Britain building again, with starts increasing by a third year-on-year.”

What the private sector Mortgage Advice Bureau doesn’t mention in that the great mass of that increase in starts – from 22,160 to 29,510 – is accounted for a massive jump of 31% in housing association starts in the September quarter last year. Private sector starts only increased 15% in that time, although they are up around a third year-on-year following two successive quarters of heavy falls.

That increase in itself is highly encouraging, but is lost in the false euphoria. And unless starts increase at a phenomenal rate up to the end of September, there will once more be year-on-year stasis.

• As if in response to the proposed alternatives to the HS2 rail link, outlined in my last posting, the Institute of Economic Affairs has come down against the project. The decider for the IEA is, of course, cost. They estimate that the price tag will rocket to £80bn by the time all the supporting infrastructure is in place, the route moved around to placate middle England and compensation paid out to the rest.

Writing in The Spectator under the headline Now is the perfect time for George Osborne to stop wasting money on HS2, Fraser Nelson says: “A global trend is underway: these fast trains, which seemed so futuristic in the 1990s, do not address the problems of the 21st century. HS2 is an analogue solution, being misapplied to a digital age.”

He refers to a trip he made from London to Bristol, in which nobody bothered looking for a seat because they knew there wouldn’t be any. He makes the point that upgrading existing rail capacity would be a better use of resources than lopping a few minutes off a journey from Manchester to London.

• Upgrading the existing was also the gist of an announcement that the Energy Saving Trust will be administering a fund of £2.3m for social landlords in the South West to retrofit their homes with energy efficiency measures and renewables. The figure pales into insignificance compared to the cost of the BIG infrastructure projects, but will be of immeasurably more importance to a lot of people. Except in Cornwall, that is, where the Ready for Retrofit scheme doesn’t apply. The report, carried on the Sustainable Homes website, doesn’t say why.

Chris Stokes