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Policy failure 'to blame for housing shortage'

A new study into the housing shortage in the UK blames deficiencies in public policy for the chronic undersupply of homes.London School of Economics professor Paul Cheshire has written a paper entitled 'Turning houses into gold: the failure of British planning', in which he claims that the problems facing the UK housing market are not due to foreign speculators but rather to decades of policy failure.Greenbelts are singled out for particularly stringent criticism by the academic, who says they are discriminatory and act as a way of "keeping the urban unwashed out of the Home Counties".Professor Cheshire says Britain has not been building enough homes for the past 30 years, pointing out that between 1994 and 2012 supply fell short of demand by between 1.6 and 2.3 million houses.Moreover, homes that have been constructed are often in the wrong places, where there is low demand for new properties.This is because policies have prevented the construction of homes where they are needed most -  "in the leafier and prosperous bits of ex-urban England".According to the professor, "what policy is doing is turning houses and housing land into something like gold or artworks - into an asset for which there is an underlying consumption demand but which is in more or less fixed supply".The introduction of greenbelts and the British use of 'development control', rather than the rule-based planning system that operates in the US and continental Europe, have restricted the supply of homes.Greenbelts do little to promote biodiversity, Professor Cheshire argues; instead, they act as a subsidy to golf and "horseyculture". He points out that more of Surrey (2.65 per cent) is devoted to golf courses than housing.Building on greenbelt land is therefore advocated as a solution to the present housing crisis. The professor says this would improve the quality of housing, cut commute times and reduce the pressure to build on playing fields. Moreover, this could be achieved without having a significant impact on the environment. 

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