Labour’s proposal to force cheap sales of land to the state for social housing (Report, 2 February) is laudable in so much as it identifies rocketing land values as the reason why social housing providers cannot compete with private developers, but it does not address the principal cause, which is the relaxation of planning guidelines over the past 20 years. This is no more evident than in London, where the Thames corridor skyline has sprouted a spiralling number of high-rise residential properties for sale, many of which are bought for investment rather than to provide homes.
This dramatic change can be traced back to the 1990s when planning densities were relaxed, so that it is now possible to see modest four-storey private estates built in the 1980s on the riverfront beside modern residential towers of 30 or more storeys. The increase in land values is a direct result of the increase in density and building heights now permitted in planning approvals, with developers claiming that the higher cost of land prevents them from providing the proportion of affordable homes that would otherwise be required. The way to bring down land values to a level where social housing providers can compete with private developers in the open market is to lower permitted residential densities. This would inevitably impact on the property investment market, but would increase the number of affordable homes available for rent or sale.
(Architect) Richmond, Surrey
You can see what he’s trying to say. More housing upon a hectare means more can be charged for the housing on that hectare.
But really, an architect trying to insist that low density housing will be cheaper than high density? Doesn’t it take 7 years to become such a professional and if so what in buggery are they teaching them in that time? Hasn’t he even observed an actual property market?