Policy, planning and the house construction industry

Armstrong, Colin (1982) Policy, planning and the house construction industry. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This dissertation sets out to examine the inter-relationships which exist between housing policies, at both the national and the local level, planning policies and the house construction industry. The rationale behind this examination being that a full understanding of the nature and operations of the house construction industry, the housing market and the way in which policy initiatives affect them is essential if policies are to achieve their objectives and if, in the process, the best use is to be made of resources so commited. Chapter One examines the nature of the house construction industry, and in particular the size and type of firms, the inputs to the construction process, the importance of the level of productivity in the industry, and the inter-relations between house construction and other forms of construction. The industry is shown to be highly fragmented, being dominated by small firms, often dependent upon larger firms for their work. This, together with the complex operation of assembling the many inputs required, makes the process of construction long, difficult and often inefficient. The implication of this for policy makers is that policies designed to affect the level of productive activity may in the event create bottlenecks in the supply of inputs to the industry leading to demand outstripping supply with inflationary consequences. The chapter consequently concludes that a consideration of the capacity of the industry and its organisation is essential for efficient and effective policy making. Chapter Two goes on to examine the market in which the house construction industry must operate and which policy-makers attempt to manipulate. It is recognised that in the long-run demand is derived from the demographic structure of the population and the levels of real income, but that in the short-run it is that demand made effective through the provision of house purchase finance or via local authority investment which is the important consideration. In the long-run it is demand which is seen as the main determinant of the cost and supply of land, materials and manpower, but it is recognised that short-run changes in the level of demand, even small changes, might have an inflationary effect since market imperfections make the response of the construction industry somewhat 'sticky'. Chapter Three identifies four rationales for public intervention in the housing markets of advanced capitalist societies. The first, 'housing policy as social policy' holds that the market cannot or will not provide housing at a high enough standard and in sufficient quantities on its own. Consequently public policy is employed to distort the market mechanism to produce the desired housing stock. This view is directly opposed to the second rationale 'housing policy as a lubricant to the market mechanism'. It holds that the market is the most efficient and reliable way of distributing housing resources and that the function of policy should be to make the market mechanism more effective. The two other rationales view housing policy as secondary and subserviant to the more important policies of macro-economic management and the potent forces of class-struggle. Both may be envisaged as consistent with the first two rationales, although both are dependent upon other events within government and society as a whole. Chapter Four examines current central and local government housing strategies. It highlights the growing subservience of the satisfaction of housing needs to macro-economic policy. It shows that investment in housing is falling in the name of reduced public expenditure, but that much of the apparent savings are illusory as low income groups must be supported by Supplementary Benefit and rent rebates, while the promotion of owner-occupation is encouraging people to move into a more heavily subsidised tenure. Local housing strategies are shown to be increasingly constrained by central government policy which has led to local authority housebuilding falling into a deep decline and a concomitant reliance upon a depressed private sector to fulfil housing needs. In the process of developing the argument the housing finance system is described. Chapter Five examines the promotion of private housebuilding in Glasgow as an example of the way in which local housing and planning departments attempt to influence the construction industry in the pursuance of policy objectives. The history of this policy, its objectives and its performance so far are described and evaluated. The final chapter draws together the main arguments of the preceding five chapters, laying particular emphasis upon the implications of this discussion for central government housing policy and the chosen example of a local policy, the promotion of owner-occupation in Glasgow, The main defects and limitations of these policies are outlined and possible improvements and reforms are suggested.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Adviser: D Miller-Allen
Keywords: Urban planning
Date of Award: 1982
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1982-74133
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2019 15:33
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2019 15:33
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/74133

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