Blogs - Monika Juneja

Monika Juneja
co-founder of Fortitude Dynamics Group

When it comes to the housing crisis, there’s no way to keep everyone happy

The Community Secretary’s recent comments only draw attention to differing priorities of councils, government and residents.

This month saw Community Secretary Sajid Javid make gestures towards solving the housing crisis. He acknowledged the anger and distrust that the public have expressed after Grenfell, and made the usual mutterings about building more housing. He proposed a green paper, and the looming figure of Brexit strongly implies that change will come for the housing market.

But will it actually?

Javid’s comments were followed with the usual array of think pieces, which re-iterated all that we already know: there is a housing crisis, young people are struggling, and more homes need to be built

We’ve heard it all before. Everyone has their opinion about what has gone wrong and who is to blame, but we are hearing little in the way of credible solutions, particularly from the people whose responsibility it is to come up with them.

There appears to be no solution that keeps everyone happy. One of the most important things that is required in the building of more housing is speed. Councils cannot be wasting time vacillating around whether or not to grant planning permission, and house-builders shouldn’t be sitting on land after permission is granted, waiting until the precise moment they can make the most profit to begin building.

Yet, in the wake of the tragedy of Grenfell, what the public will want is more regulation, more concern with safety, more resident involvement with planning permission. These people, particularly those who live in social housing, have every right to feel this way. Their trust was massively betrayed by those in charge of planning, with devastating and catastrophic results.

Local councils will be left with a lengthy process of negotiating between trying to keep local residents safe and in control, attempting to solve the lack of housing in their area, and trying to satisfy whatever the government’s latest demands are. What they will need while attempting this juggling act is regulation that actually allows safe, affordable homes to be built. This means permission to build on green belt, rulings which make it in the house-builders’ interests to build safe, affordable housing at some speed.

The housing crisis was not caused by one single change; it was caused by a wide range of multifaceted economic, political, social and legal factors that have only grown more complex over time. Thus, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the solution will not be one simple move. Solving the housing crisis will involve a comprehensive detangling of all the many issues that led to its climax, including manifold changes to planning regulation.

Lawmakers need to get their proposals in line with the interests of the public. Residents are scared and rightly so; their safety and their livelihood are at stake. They don’t need formless promises and vague gestures – what they need is a real tangible changes to the way in which planning permission is granted, which will directly affect their lives.

These changes can’t come soon enough.

By Monika Juneja, co-founder of Fortitude Dynamics Group