Government ‘woefully short of target’

The basis of optimism is sheer terror…I have the greatest contempt for optimism.

This week’s winner of the ‘stuff that’s so obvious it hurts’ award is the news story from that redoubtable organisation the Joseph Rowntree Foundation that the Government is unlikely to reach its own target of three million homes by 2020.

Well, thanks for the heads-up guys, but to be honest, that one’s right up there with the surprise about the Pope’s religious leanings and what the Three Bears do in the woods.

To get to this ambitious target we would have to see close 240,000 houses built a year, every year between now and then. And that’s simply not going to happen. Even the CPA’s latest set of forecasts only sets the private housing numbers at 148,000 in 2013, and that’s if things recover.

The numbers talked about by Kate Barker in her report in what now looks suspiciously like the boom times of a few years ago were ambitious then; they’re impossible now.

There has certainly been a great deal of government money going into the housing industry to try and get developments moving again, with the Kickstart initiative. But there’s also been a great deal of government money going into other areas – banks, mostly, but also the car industry, the Stamp Duty holiday and the VAT reduction.

If it hasn’t done so already, that money will run out, very shortly. Whoever wins the next election, one things is sure: belts will have to be tightened and there will be no big government rush to spend on housing.

Shadow housing minister Grant Schapps might be determined to turn us into a nation of housebuilders, but , as I have said in these blog pages before (click here to read) , he will have his work cut out converting the middle-Britain masses to that idea.

Economist Mark Berrisford-Smith, speaking in this month’s BMJ, says the worst of the global recession is over and he may be right. But it probably won’t feel like it for quite a long time.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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