Emoov boss Russell Quirk yesterday appeared at the Labour party conference to present his solution to the housing market.
Quirk is proposing a Government-owned builder, UK Housing plc.
Quirk, a former Tory councillor in Brentford, Essex, is calling his plan Help to Build.
He has previously presented it to the Conservative party and claims he trialled it himself successfully while serving on Brentford Council.
Yesterday he led a panel discussion and was joined by shadow housing secretary John Healey, Guardian columnist Dawn Foster, and Peter Mason, cabinet member for housing at the London borough of Ealing.
The panel was chaired by Stephanie Lloyd, deputy director of Labour group Progress. The title of the discussion was: “Home is where the heart is: can we solve Britain’s housing crisis.”
Healey himself put the case for what looks like a new manifesto commitment from Labour – to impose a national levy on all holiday homes, equivalent to double the rate of council tax.
Quirk argued that the Government is failing to build its annual target of 300,000 homes and housing has become too expensive, while social and affordable housing has all but disappeared.
He says that this is causing resentment towards the two main political parties in particular.
Quirk also said that the planning process is too long, and there remains a political unwillingness to unlock the less attractive parts of the green belt.
He also argued that nimbyism is causing local politicians to concentrate on their short-term image.
But, he said, the biggest issue is the major housebuilers whose stranglehold on land supply and housing is “keeping prices rising alongside their profits”.
He said that the solution was to sidestep the bottleneck.
Quirk pointed out that there is already a Formal Asset Register that identifies publicly owned land assets at a local and national level.
This could be turned into an up to date database which local authorities and central government would then use and commit to a plan to build using those assets.
This would bring the launch of the first publicly owned housing developer – UK Housing plc.
It would be run as a private enterprise with the Government and taxpayer as its shareholders.
The land supply would come through the plan to build database and the entity itself would decide what housing is needed in each area by type, tenure and geography over a five-year plan.
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.
“But 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.”