Support for building more housing is widespread across the political spectrum and the business community. Why is that?
Firstly there are people in housing need although the figures are lower than those cited when Homechoice register figures are used. The assumption is that where need exists it arises due to a lack of housing supply and therefore boosting supply is the answer.
So why do the media, political parties and others support building more houses?
A number of reasons:
1) A lack of understanding of the issues. Many commentators have neither the time or the inclination to assess all the information they need to reach a conclusion. There is a lack of understanding of the basic data in many cases. How many know that the HCR is not a good measure of housing need? Yet the figures are often quoted.
2) A dominant discourse. Building more houses is a dominant discourse rather like the importance of the market economy. Many accept it without asking any questions.
3) It seems so simple. People need housing therefore we must build houses!
4) It avoids dealing with awkward issues. For the right this means ignoring the impact of:- second homes, leisure homes – those let out for tourists, investment properties and buy-to-let. The fact that these all restrict the supply (though for buy-to-let it limits direct access to properties), and raise prices is conveniently ignored. For the free movement of people supporters on both the left and right it ignores the effect of population increase due to immigration. Far easier to call for building more houses regardless.
5) There are a lot PR savvy groups out there who benefit from house building from the construction industry, developers and estate agents. They would be like turkeys voting for Xmas if they said “Oh we don’t really need to build that many houses.”
6) Building houses is considered a means of boosting the economy. If the economy is booming – build more houses; if recession threatens – build more houses!
With all of these factors driving support for more housing it is hardly surprising that the general public when asked is pre-disposed to agree that more housing is needed. Without a proper discussion of the issues public opinion merely mirrors the dominant discourse regardless of reality.