Solving The Housing Crisis By Redistribution
Despite calls by Theresa May that is was ‘imperative that Parliament keeps the total bill as low as possible’, the estimated cost to refurbish the Palace of Westminster is an eyewatering £4bn.
Although restoration of historic and iconic landmarks is rarely disputed, this amount may seem excessive to most; after all, the Shard in London cost a mere £1.5bn in comparison, which included money to develop the surrounding area.
The money to refurbish Westminster is to be spent on work which will include replacing the sewage system, replacing old cabling and improving disabled access, all of which are desperately needed as the building has been described by MPs as ‘crumbling’ and ‘unsafe’. It would also fund work to Richmond House, the proposed temporary home for MPs during the refurbishment works.
However, it does raise the question as to whether the money earmarked for the project (and the extra that will inevitably be needed if it overruns), could be put to better use and for the greater good.
Could the 8,000 strong work force at Westminster be permanently moved to a new premises, purpose built and future proof, for less money. It has been stated that the proposed move to Richmond House would not take place until 2025 at the earliest, with the work estimated to take 6 years, meaning MPs and staff moving back in 2031 at the earliest. Comparing this again to The Shard, this took 3 years to build.
If the House of Commons and House of Lords did find and build a new, purpose-built accommodation, this would leave the existing building as a tourist attraction that in turn could pay for remedial works. Would this not be a most cost-effective option, rather than trying fix and to make Westminster usable in this very different world to when it was built?
A report, commissioned by Shelter, who campaigns to end homelessness and bad housing, estimated that there is a 3.2 million home deficit in the UK. Of these, 1.27 million are for those in the greatest need, which include homeless households, those living with disability or long-term illness or living in very poor conditions.
Pure Commercial Finance took these figures and examined whether redistributing the amount estimated to refurbish Westminster could be put to better use in the housing crisis.
Estimating the cost to build a new 3–bedroom home at £99,843.75, for the cost of refurbishing Westminster, Pure Commercial Finance calculated that 40,000 new homes could be built, housing almost 121,000 people.
With Shelter estimating that 320,000 people are currently homeless in the UK, if the money was redirected into building new homes, this would make a significant difference to those in the greatest need.
As well as providing a permanent address for those that are homeless and stability for families, Pure Commercial Finance also stated that it could also ‘boost the economy by giving individuals the opportunity to return to work.’
Ben Lloyd, Managing Director and Co-founder of Pure Commercial Finance, said:
“As development finance specialists, we deal with professional developers every day and are well-aware of the demand for affordable housing across the UK and the influence Brexit is having on borrowing.
“Although we would never suggest cancelling the refurbishment of such a prized national monument, we were shocked to see how matching the refurbishment budget could help towards solving the deficit.”
What are your views on the costs of refurbishing Westminster? Could the money be put to better use and help fund projects that help the citizens of the UK rather than the few that work at Westminster?