In My View - 8th Decmeber

At this time of year I think the need of a place to call "home" is more important than ever.

Housing is one of the topics that features most regularly in the volume of constituent correspondence that I receive.

Too often it is a struggle to get on the housing ladder because capital values are so high, and others find it difficult to rent suitable accommodation privately without help.

Wages in the private sector have been growing steadily in recent years and the lift in the National Living Wage to £7.50 in the Autumn Statement is good news, with further to come, however, the dream of a home of one's own is still elusive for too many.

It is worth stepping back for a minute to examine some of the circumstances of the housing market. The last "balance sheet recession" in the UK, where owners of assets or lenders to them become forced sellers, was in 1990.

In the 26 years since, the interest on a mortgage has fallen from 15 per cent to around four per cent, and the availability of credit for housing investment has expanded dramatically, most notably in the 2004 to 2007 period prior to the financial crash.

Meanwhile, the non-financial elements of demand for housing have surged, namely the trends towards smaller households as families live further apart - although this seems to have plateaued recently - increased levels of immigration, and a higher birth rate.

These factors have caused housing prices to rise seemingly inexorably and a great deal of speculation on land that could conceivably be used for housing has taken place.

Land designated as industrial has often been hoarded in the expectation that better returns from using it for housing might be allowed in the future.

Many will note that the fragility of the banking system in 2008/9 and the over-reliance on the value of housing in the system.

Sub-prime mortgages have become shorthand for irresponsible lending but it is worth remembering that they extended the possibility of home ownership to many in the US who could not have afforded it before.

The point is that the availability of credit to invest in housing coupled with a lack of supply has meant that prices have lost a healthy relationship to wages.

There is no one simple answer. The Government does not build houses but needs to keep encouraging the conditions for this to happen.

It needs to be ambitious and ensure planning laws allow the kind of vision that means the new homes are ones that people want to live in; proper family homes in the right places for the environment and with good surrounding infrastructure like roads, schools and healthcare.

Our existing towns and villages can't take a great deal more load and we need to look for innovative solutions now and stop creating a problem for the next generation to deal with.

If you'd like to get in touch about housing or another issue please do email or call 01935314321. I'm also on Facebook and Twitter.