Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has been ramping up his department’s rhetorical output on housing, as the Budget looms large.
The DCLG has launched two major consultations on the property industry: one on the sales side (targeting gazumping in particular), and one tackling systemic issues in the rental sector. And that follows the big Housing White Paper, published earlier in the year.
Now, Javid has publicly argued in favour of borrowing more in an effort to build 300,000 new homes per year. That’s a quantity of construction not seen since the 1960s, and significantly above the 164,000 homes completed in England in 2015/16.
Record-low interest rates could provide an opportunity to step away from the austerity practices championed by Conservative chancellors since the economy tanked a decade ago, Javid told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.
Borrowing to build “can be the right thing if done sensibly”, he said, calling the housing shortage “the biggest barrier to social progress in our country today”.
“You borrow more to invest in the infrastructure that leads to more housing – take advantage of some of the record-low interest rates that we have,” he said. “I think we should absolutely be considering that.”
Whether such ideas make it through to Chancellor Hammond’s Budget next month – or are even practicable given planning regulations and a skills shortage in the construction sector (likely to be exacerbated by Brexit) – remains to be seen. David did tell Marr that he’s “sure housing will be covered in the Budget”, though.