Browned Off Seeing Red and Feeling Blue. Why All The Leaders Let Us Down.

At last the moment I had been waiting for at something past nine o’clock last Thursday - someone finally raised the question of housing in a Leaders Debate. 
I was beginning to think it wouldn’t happen but there out of the blue a sensible lady married with a good job and a decent household income expressed a concern that despite all these superb credentials she couldn’t get a foot on the property ladder.
 I nearly leapt for joy.  Gordon had the opportunity to sell Homebuy Direct - and the leaders had the chance to debate the peculiarities of our planning system which is almost strangling the new homes market of today.
First to respond was Brown.  I held my breath crossed my fingers and what did I get?  An incredible retort that British developers “had let us down”.
Let us down?  Who does he think we are?  Bankers?  Whilst they got Government handouts we saw 30% of those employed in our industry lose their jobs.  And why?  Because despite owning vast chunks of the banks in question  hardly any Britons could actually get the loans from them that they needed to move. 
As an industrywe could carry on building houses but if no one was able to buy themwhat exactly was the point?
You see many people believed that the appetite for new homes died during the recession.  Wrong.  Appetities might have shrunk a little but a good many people wanted to move they just couldn’t find a bank to lend them the money.
Many banks happily claimed to have set aside cash to lend -  but precious few would-be borrowers met the increasingly stringent lending criteria.
Now I am not saying for one second that we should return to the days of 100% mortgages based on an income multiplier of six but as the lady in the audience at Birmingham University so eloquently demonstrated last week hardworking people with little or no debt and good jobs were (and still are) failing to meet the lending mark.
And that is just one of the problems with the answers given in the Leaders Debate.  Gordon Brown mentioned “shared equity” but missed a once in a lifetime opportunity to actually promote the product his Government created and gave to us to sell “Homebuy Direct”.
 And no one yes no one mentioned the real issue – planning policy. Whilst planning rules stay as they are the housing shortage can only go from bad to worse.
Someone needs to get in there and ensure that builders are in the future  able take a piece of land from acquisition to construction in a fraction of the time we currently can  - and that we are allowed to build the sort of homes people really want to live in.
By the time we had got onto the subject of adding VAT to new homes I had all but lost the will to live.  There are only so many times we can warn politicians that the country is on the brink of a housing shortfall disaster.  Yes we can add VAT on but it is another cost that needs to be absorbed somewhere and it will have to be to some degree  reflected in the price we are able to pay for land.  Land owners aren’t as a rule stupid people.  They will quickly realise they can get more money for their land by selling it to a commercial developer than to a homebuilder and they will invariably go down that route – and who can blame them?  Not me.
At this moment in time none of us really know who is going to get the keys to Number 10 later this week.  I just hope that whoever it is leaves anything that will further hamper our efforts to solve the housing shortage at the front door and arrives at their desk determined to tackle this issue head on.

Sue Warwick National Sales & Marketing Director - Miller Homes