A (political) defence of The White Paper
A ‘damp squib’. ‘Feeble’. ‘Raising the white flag’.
A quick Google search on the news coverage following the Housing White Paper’s publication throws up a whole plethora of these phrases, slogans and comments.
Objectively, its contents may disappoint some, perhaps many. But the Government isn’t approaching it objectively. No government of any hue approaches anything objectively and, against the backdrop of key Parliamentary votes on Brexit, the White Paper represents the high water mark of what the Government thinks it can get the widest level of political support on the Conservative benches for, without causing an insurrection.
Remember, PM Theresa May’s majority can be counted on less than your fingers and toes.
Reflecting realpolitik, it’s mainly Conservative councils that are struggling with their Local Plans. Inevitably the Government will eventually have to step in and impose a Plan on one or two councils in the next few years, but it’s much easier to save political capital for Brexit and shore up goodwill by giving councils a few more years to work one up, as opposed to getting into the nitty gritty of what should be built where, dictated all the way from Downing Street and Whitehall.
Protection of the Green Belt will disappoint many but again,Tory MPs in the Shires were concerned about ‘ripping up the countryside’. Even the Labour Mayor of London believes you can’t build out. Clearly it’s about building up.
These potentially taller and denser buildings might now include a re-vamped version of the Starter Home but even when it becomes an official part of the housing mix, don’t expect Labour councils to welcome it with open arms.
Perhaps what all sides can agree on is helping ‘Generation Rent’ through a renewed push to encourage institutionally backed Build to Rent. Labour and Conservative councils across the major cities are consenting schemes from and encouraging this sector which can offer tenants a more stable, professionally managed home in contrast to what is too often found currently in the private rented sector.
So will the White Paper help? Undoubtedly yes. Is it a silver bullet to tackle the housing crisis? No. However, set against the political realities of politics in 2017, it’s the best we can expect until after the next General Election.