CML backs Kate Barker plans

Ryan Fowler

December 3, 2014

It’s now more than a decade since the economist, then a member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, published her seminal Review of UK Housing Supply.

Looking back on that work in her newly-published book, Housing: Where’s the Plan?, she says that its key contention – that the UK needed to build homes at a faster rate – was “controversial at the time but has since become widely accepted.”

In 2003, the year her review of housing supply appeared, there were more than 200,000 housing starts in the UK. Last year, there were fewer than 160,000.

Post-war UK housing construction rates have fluctuated widely.

In the 1960s, when the population was growing more slowly than it is today, annual housing construction regularly topped 300,000 and occasionally 400,000 units. But last year’s modest total actually represented a recovery from a low point of fewer 120,000 in 2008-09.

Barker concludes by setting out an holistic approach for delivering the solutions.

She writes: “From time to time there have been ministerial committees with a housing policy focus. Such a group, which would now include the governor of the Bank of England and the chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority, ought to have permanent existence and some supporting structure.

“Since many of the risks and opportunities in housing ultimately have large implications for public finance, the chancellor of the exchequer would be a natural chair for such a committee. In addition, the ministerial committee should be offered independent public advice by a group of experts in order to ensure that the tensions between the overall goals and the desires…are played out explicitly.”

The CML says: “In her new book, Kate Barker widens the focus of her analysis from the supply of housing to encompass demand, funding, planning and government policy, which has not always produced the desired outcome. She does so in a concise and compelling style, setting out her analysis and her views on the way forward in fewer than 100 cogently written pages.

“Whether or not readers agree with her analysis of all the problems, she is surely correct on the need for concerted and co-ordinated action to deliver the solutions.”

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