Britain's Bad Housing (2007)
Channel 4 Dispatches
Reporter Andrew Gilligan investigates the private house builders charged with solving Britain's chronic housing shortage.
Earlier July 2007, Prime Minister Gordon Brown placed housing firmly at the top of the government's agenda, unveiling plans to build three million homes by 2020 - possibly the biggest building programme in Britain for 30 years. But in this edition of Dispatches, reporter Andrew Gilligan investigates the private house builders charged with solving Britain's chronic housing shortage.
Gilligan raises serious concerns about the way in which house-builders currently operate. He exposes the business tactics which are used to manipulate the planning process, questions the quality of houses and shows how public authorities have allowed developers control over housing policy.
Gilligan uncovers the underhand ways in which some developers seek to gain planning permission. He reveals the dirty tricks used by one lobbying company on behalf of a developer in London to influence the local planning committee and discovers cases where developers have made donations to local political parties which control the planning committees - around the same time their applications for profitable developments are being considered.
With housing in three-quarters of the country now too expensive for first-time buyers, Gilligan examines one of the government's key solutions to the astronomical pricing - building more 'affordable' homes. But he discovers that previous attempts to build cheap, good quality homes in the past have failed dismally with prices for flagship schemes inflating by more than three times the original target price.
The investigation uncovers failed attempts by the government to impose tough targets on developers to build houses which local people could afford - rather than the more profitable luxury housing. He discovers that fierce opposition to these plans raised by the lobbying group for the housing industry resulted in the government backtracking and omitting any compulsion or penalties if developers fail to deliver affordable homes. And he exposes the practice of 'landbanking' - developers deliberately not building on land despite having planning permission in a bid to drive up prices and make huge profits.
Where houses are being built - Gilligan discovers their quality can be questionable. He visits a new estate in Essex where the workmanship is so poor that residents have called in a professional house auditor to retrieve some of their money back from the developer. He joins the auditor as he inspects brand new houses sold for £300,000 with bowing walls, leaking rooves and lopsided windows. Gilligan also finds serious problems at one of the government's flagship eco developments - homes which have been hailed as demonstrating building excellence have serious sound problems, according to residents.
Source: Channel 4