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Time to step in
Why it’s no good being hands-off with housing

People on the left and right broadly agree we need more homes. But consensus quickly breaks down when we consider how we get the homes built – and crucially what kind of homes we build and where.

The current Government favours a hands-off approach: if only supply could rise unfettered, they believe the market would resolve problems of scarcity and affordability.

This paper argues instead that the market will fail to meet our housing challenges: the government must step in to ensure we build enough new homes, of the right sort, in the right places. The historic record shows that private house-building alone will not produce enough new homes, and furthermore a market free-for-all will not solve the country’s complex housing crisis.

It is only in recent years that government responsibility for building homes has been challenged – it had been a core part of social policy for most of 20th century Britain. To face our current housing crisis, the state must step in.

The left must argue for investment in social housing across the country and the predominant belief that greater regulation of the private rented sector will hamper supply must be challenged.

The problems faced by those trying to buy a home will also not be solved quickly or effectively by relying on the free market. Government intervention in the housing and financial markets is needed to help people facing the gulf between earnings and house prices, and difficulties getting mortgages or deposits that are often insurmountable.

The government’s vision of a hands-off free-for-all will not solve our country’s housing problems. Our housing crisis calls on us to step in.