The government goes back into housebuilding
WHEN George Osborne is spotted outsideWestminster, he is very often making an appearance on a building site, wearing a fluorescent safety jacket. It was no surprise to hear him claim once again, in his budget speech on March 19th, that “We're gettingBritainbuilding”. Sadly, given the huge extent ofBritain's housing shortage, the chancellor's proposed interventions do not add up to much.
The biggest announcement was that the government will extend Help to Buy, a scheme that guarantees mortgages for people purchasing newly built homes. Mr Osborne also hopes to build a new town at Ebbsfleet, a patch of post-industrial land in the Thames estuary, and promises to speed up the redevelopment of several rotting 1960s and 1970s social housing estates inLondon.
By making it easier for housebuilders to shift their stock, Help to Buy has probably helped boost building slightly, especially in northern cities where construction had all but ceased. Extending the programme will boostBritain's housing stock by 120,000 by 2020, the Treasury claims, though it will also expose taxpayers to any future house-price crash. Mr Osborne also announced a new fund to support lending to small housebuilders—who have struggled to get financing in recent years—which ought to have a similar effect.
The new town is more adventurous. Ebbsfleet, where a high-speed rail link toLondonopened in 2007, has had plans for new homes for almost 20 years. Few have been built, mostly because the site is a partially flooded quarry with little in the way of shops, public transport or infrastructure. The government's new idea is to create a development corporation with control over planning and the ability to borrow to clean up and prepare the site. That was how post-war new towns such as Milton Keynes andStevenagewere built.
A similar interventionism is visible in the plan to rebuild 1960s estates. Many of these, such as the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark and Robin Hood Gardens in Tower Hamlets, are crumbling. By increasing the density on the sites, and using the proceeds of selling the extra houses built, it ought to be possible to cover the cost of reconstruction. But councils have been short of money to do much themselves, and private developers extract high returns in exchange for putting up capital. With central-government money, those projects ought to move quicker and councils ought to get more for their land.
These are decent measures—but nowhere near enough. To accommodate population growth,Englandalone needs to increase its supply of homes to around 230,000 per year, more than twice the number built last year. The real restriction onBritain's construction sector is planning policy, which constrains building near existing infrastructure at the edge of cities. The chancellor has been unable to change that. Instead, he is in effect adopting a milder version of 1960s-style grand planning: using government money to boost construction on marginal, unpopular sites. It is an improvement, but only just.
这些措施还不错，但还远远不够。为适应人口增长，仅仅只是英格兰地区每年就需要增加约23万套房屋供应，是去年已建成数量的两倍。英国建筑业真正的限制是规划政策，其中包括了城市边缘已落成的公共基础设施附近的建筑。财政大臣奥斯本无权改变。相反，实际上他采取了一个更温和的上世纪六十年代的宏伟规划：用政府的钱刺激边缘、偏远地带的城市建设。这是一种进步，但不仅仅是进步。译者 周雨晴 校对 邵夏沁