We need affordable housing, so let's build on the green belt

Should we build new homes on the green belt?

A quarter of people say they cannot afford to buy a property in their local area - largely because prices are increasing at twice the rate of wages. We're getting so fed up with the lack of affordable housing that we're ready for some pretty radical solutions - including building on the green belt.

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A new study by Cicero Research found that people are happy to fork out 4.7 times earning for a property. Unfortunately given that the average salary is £27,600, this means they'd consider £130,000 a reasonable amount to pay for a home - and there are plenty of areas where that wouldn't buy you anything more than a shoebox.

In fact, the average property costs £234,000 - or around 8.7 times the average salary. It's the kind of multiple that most people would have enormous trouble convincing a mortgage lender was affordable.

It's hardly surprising therefore that 65% of people say that all or most local housing is no longer affordable. In the south east things are even worse - and some 37% of people said there's absolutely nothing in their price range.

What can be done?

The researchers concluded that prices need to fall dramatically to enable people to be able to afford to buy a home of their own. Some 40% of people wanted to see the government build more social housing to make it easier for first time buyers to afford a property. Meanwhile 36% of people would like the government to focus on building for the elderly - so they could downsize from large properties and free up more housing stock.

One fifth of people would like to see developers being forced to use their land to build houses sooner rather than later - rather than sitting on a huge landbank.

And we're getting desperate enough to consider some serious steps. Some 13% of people say they would be happy to see more homes built on the green belt.

What's the problem?

The heart of the problem is that simply not enough houses are being built. The issue boils down to the fact that land with planning permission is too thin on the ground. It means that this land commands an enormous premium, and trades hands many times before any building starts - building an awful lot of extra cost into the process.

Developers then have to ensure they sell the property for higher prices in order to make a profit (after the cost of the land is factored in). This means they drag their feet because they don't want to flood the market - for fear of depressing local house prices.

It's therefore in the industry's interests to build too slowly, and keep prices high.

If a shortage of land with planning permission is the issue, then there's an argument that large swathes of the greenbelt ought to be allocated to house-building. That way developers could buy the land less expensively, build faster and more cheaply, and still make money.

It could create hundreds of thousands of new affordable houses, and doesn't have to eat up the countryside. For every field allocated to housing on the outskirts of the city, another field further away - where there's no demand for housing - could be designated as part of the green belt.

It's an idea that has some support from the experts. The Royal Town Planning Institute reported in November that the housing crisis needed fresh thinking, and that as well as brownfield building, the green belt needed to be up for debate. Phil Williams, RTPI President, said: "This is not a crude green light that says 'build on the Green Belt', but we need a new approach to enable greenfield sites and green belt sites to be regarded more positively by local authorities, politicians and communities."

But what do you think? would you like to see us build on the green belt in order to make housing more affordable, or is expensive property a price worth paying for protecting the countryside? Let us know in the comments.

10 things that add value to homes in an area
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10 things that add value to homes in an area

A view out over the park isn’t just a nice bonus, it’s a valuable asset. A study by Marsh & Parsons has found that a park view can add up to 10% to a property's asking price.

It carried out its research in London, where it found that a view over Warwick Square in Pimlico added £75,000 to the asking price of a one-bedroom apartment.

Understandably, this is largely a London phenomenon, where the vast majority of train-based commuting takes place in the UK.

The Nationwide Building Society found that being 500m from a station would add 10.5% to the value of a property in London. In Manchester it fetched a 4.6% premium and in Glasgow 6%.

The researchers found that the closer the property was, the higher the premium would be - until the proximity of the station started having an impact on the area itself.

Having a Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose, Marks and Spencer or the Co-operative within striking difference, will add value to your property. In fact, a survey by Lloyds claimed that it would add 7% - or just over £15,000.

However, apparently what we all really want is a Waitrose, because the same study found that having a branch nearby added almost £39,000 - or 12% to the value of the property.

The way the survey was carried out, however, doesn't make it clear whether this is a reflection of the attraction of the supermarket itself, or whether the supermarkets tend to target affluent areas with expensive houses.

People will pay 12% more to live in a market town than they will for the same property in the surrounding countryside. The findings come from Lloyds Bank, which claimed the towns offered a balance between country life and community spirit that proved irresistible to buyers.

It added that in some market towns the mark-up was even larger, with Beaconsfield in the South East attracting a 156% premium over the surrounding area.

A study by the London School of Economics found that living in a conservation area adds 23% to the value of your home. Given that this was an academic study, the researchers went even further and adjusted the results based on the kinds of properties in the area, and other aspects of the location (which none of the other studies took into consideration), and it still found an uplift of 9%.
Being near a good school will add 28% to the value of your home - according to Savills - with parents calculating that it’s cheaper to move into the catchment area of a good school and pay anything up to £100,000 more for their property than fork out for years of extortionate private education.

A study a few years ago by Zoopla discovered that living on a road with ‘Hill’ or ‘Lane’ in its name meant your property was likely to be 50% more valuable than the national average.

Those with ‘Mews’, ‘Park’ and 'Green’ in their names were also more valuable.

It’s unlikely that there’s any element of cause and effect here: instead they are by-products of the same thing. Expensive houses have always been built in the more exclusive parts of town, including the hills and the quiet ‘lanes’ around those hills.

A survey by Primelocation claimed that being near a top golf course would add 56% to the value of your property. It added that prices were also rising faster near golf courses than elsewhere in the country.

Of course, there’s a chance that the results were impacted by the fact that many of the courses are in leafy and exclusive areas, where people pay a premium to live regardless of the course.

You’d have thought the threat of flooding would make people take to the hills, but it appears we’re still happy to pay a premium to be beside the sea.

The Knight Frank Waterfront Index found that overlooking an estuary adds an average of 85% to the price of a property, a harbour adds 83%, while the coastline in general adds 56% to the value of the property. If you have a mooring, that’s even better, as it adds 104% to the value of your home.

Despite all the bad press surrounding flood plains and rivers breaking their banks, being near a river is actually more valuable than being by the sea.

The Knight Frank Waterside Index claims it adds 57% to the value of your property - making it the most valuable asset to have in the neighbourhood.


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