Former Conservative councillor turned online estate agency boss at Emoov, Russell Quirk, has revealed his new plan to create the UK’s first publicly owned housebuilder.
Quirk led a panel chaired by Labour group Progress’s deputy director, Stephanie Lloyd, at the Labour party conference, to discuss Britain’s housing crisis.
The Emoov CEO claimed that the housing crisis was causing hostility from people across the country towards the two main political parties. He highlighted that housing had become prohibitively expensive, social and affordable housing had diminished and the government’s annual housing target of 300,000 new homes was not on track.
Other problems, cited by Quirk were a political resistance to utilising the less scenic areas of green belt land and an overly lengthy planning process.
What does the solution involve?
The debate entitled “Home is where the heart is: can we solve Britain’s housing crisis” was discussed by a panel which included shadow housing secretary John Healey, Guardian columnist Dawn Foster and cabinet member for housing at Ealing Borough Council, Peter Mason.
Quirk’s solution is to create a government-owned building company, UK Housing plc, that would roll out a Help to Build scheme countrywide. The company would be run as a private enterprise with the government and taxpayer as its shareholders.
During the debate, Quirk highlighted the need to overcome the problem of major housebuilders having a monopoly on land, suggesting that a Formal Asset Register already in existence could be transformed into a database.
The new database would allow sites to be identified, and the body itself could determine over a five-year scheme the housing stock required in each area by type, tenure and geography.
Not replacing big housebuilders
The current Formal Asset Register records land assets publicly owned at a local and national level. Transforming this into a live database would enable local authorities and central government to invest in and commit to using those assets to build new homes.
Quirk said: “I know that this process is viable, as during my time as the chairman of Brentwood Council’s Asset Committee I implemented it successfully on a local level. I identified the land, incepted development plans, gained the planning permission and tendered to sell.
“We had control of how many of the properties were affordable and I planned to retain some of the dwellings under council control for the rental sector for continued revenue – although the majority of my other less forward-thinking colleagues at the time voted against it.
“‘Help to Build’ doesn’t replace the big housebuilders – they are free to peddle their wares as they see fit and do so currently.”
“However, we cannot allow the issue of supply to rest solely with them and their engineered restriction of housing stock. We have the land, the resource and a model that facilitates the delivery while ensuring our councils don’t lose out financially. We have the solution – we just need to implement it.”