UK needs to double number of new homes to 300,000 a year: Vince Cable

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

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Business secretary says some will have to be built on green belt if dangerous levels of house price inflation are to be avoided.

Britain needs to build 300,000 houses a year, more than double the current number and including some on green belt land, or risk pushing house price inflation up to dangerous levels, the business secretary has said.

Vince Cable said difficult decisions needed to be made about building garden cities on green belt land, and that proposals to reduce demand by paring back government's Help to Buy scheme missed the bigger problem of a lack of supply.

Cable has long warned about house price inflation, but his latest remarks are his most serious yet, and reflect frustration at the way in which David Cameron's reforms to planning laws have done little to unleash supply.

He told ITV news: "There is an enormous gap between what's needed, which is probably 300,000 houses a year as my party is advocating, and what we're currently getting, which is 125,000 to 130,000. We are way short on the housing supply which is needed.

"I think what's happening is worrying for many families, particularly low income and middle income families who can no longer get into the housing market. It means that people who can get mortgages are piling up private debt. It's potentially creating financial instability, as the governor [of the Bank of England] has warned."

Cable said that double-digit house price inflation in London meant prices were now higher than in 2007.

"In the short run the problem is that housing inflation is getting to dangerous levels and building new houses is necessary. Very large numbers of middle income families and indeed quite prosperous families can no longer get into the housing market."

"We are in future going to have to take tough decisions about using green belt areas for new planned cities, garden cities for example," he said.

By Patrick Wintour

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