A new record for ending the housing crisis?

Within twelve months, the core of one out of two main proposals in our August 2017 YIMBY report with the Adam Smith Institute is in force as national planning policy. That may be a record for a first report by an author.

The YIMBY campaign found several villages who wanted to have affordable housing or cottages on a piece of land. But permission was blocked by a higher authority because the land was technically green belt.

That made no sense. We said local people should be free to approve new homes if they want to.

Clearly the government agreed: the new National Planning Policy Framework now says exactly that. A parish or neighbourhood forum can approve new homes on a piece of green belt, so long as the layout is open, not creating a new town. It’s called a ‘neighbourhood development order’ in paragraph 146(f).

We already know at least one village working to use that rule. We’re looking forward to meeting people in their new homes when they’ve been built. It’s exciting to have achieved change so quickly.

It turns out that if you find popular reforms, it isn’t hard to persuade politicians to adopt them. Who could ever have guessed?

We’re now pushing for the second idea, Better Streets. We say residents of a single street should be able to vote to set a design code and give themselves permission to extend or replace existing homes – with rules to protect the neighbours.

That would add more homes, make housing more affordable overall and make those homeowners better off, while creating more attractive, more walkable places with more people to support local shops and pubs.

Most people love it, and we still haven’t found anyone who strongly objects. People are mainly affected by building work on their own street. Why not let them approve it if they want to? That could add millions more homes over time, while boosting wages, fairness and growth.

How soon will it be adopted? Encouragingly, the new consultation on building upwards launched with the Budget cited our report.

The biggest obstacle to fixing housing is politics. That’s why we’re promoting popular solutions that get support from local communities.

John Myers is co-founder of London YIMBY and the national YIMBY Alliance, grassroots campaigns to end the housing crisis with the support of local people.