Day of reckoning for developersDigital Editor
And so, it’s finally here. What has been billed as the closest election in a generation, a seismic moment in the future of British politics, the final death knell of the two-party system all comes down to what ordinary people do in polling stations across the country over the next twelve hours. Except, of course, it doesn’t, because the very fact that it’s so close (or so the pollsters tell us) means the uncertainty could last days, weeks, months – even culminating in a second General Election further down the line.
You wouldn’t be alone in thinking one election is quite enough for one year. However, with most polls predicting that the Conservatives are likely to win approximately 290 seats – more than Labour but well short of the 323 David Cameron would need to command a Commons majority – a second vote is not out of the question.
And, in the meantime, investors and developers will be continuing to plan for what the various possible outcomes could mean for the next four years.
There is no one issue that will decide the outcome of this uncertain and sometimes bewildering campaign. However, whichever party – or, more likely, parties – emerges with the keys to No. 10, it will have to find a way to build more homes.
So far, no party has managed to convince either the industry or the electorate that is has a convincing solution to the housing shortage. Each has pledged to increase the number of homes, but it has often seemed that the numbers bandied about are being plucked out of the air, without any sums to back them up.
The Tories have said they will build 200,000 new “starter homes” for first-time buyers, alongside their big-ticket – and controversial – manifesto pledge to extend right to buy to housing association properties. Labour has promised to oversee the construction of 200,000 new homes a year by 2020, the Lib Dems have proposed 300,000 a year and all three main parties have talked with varying degrees of vagueness about creating new garden cities.
What has been lacking from the conversation has been any real acknowledgement that central government can’t make this happen on its own.
As well as the 650 Parliamentary seats being decided today, there are 280 elections taking place for unitary, district and local councils, as well as for six directly elected mayors in Bedford, Copeland in Cumbria, Leicester, Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, Middlesbrough and Torbay in Devon.
While it may not be top of the list for central government, the devolution of powers – including planning – to local areas is an agenda that has been steadily gaining momentum, with Manchester at the vanguard of the change – in England at least.
For any of the parties to come good on their housing promises, they will need to find a way to help developers increase housing supply within local planning constraints, and with the support of local people and politicans.
With 80 percent of the public agreeing that the UK is in the grips of a housing crisis, it is a challenge the new government cannot afford to shirk.
So, the waiting game continues – for now at least. Let’s see what happens tomorrow!
By Ellie Caine, Senior Account Executive