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Housing

2004 REVIEW

WITH prices soaring and first -time buyers edged out of the market, the house building sector came under close political scrutiny this year.

In March, Kate Barker's housing review called for the current housing supply in England to increase from 135,000 completions per year to an additional 70,000120,000 private completions and 17,00023,000 social houses. Planning reforms were also promised to help streamline the process.

And in the summer there was the sound of key workers tearing up their rent contracts when John Prescott announced the arrival of the £60,000 house.

The same retail price as an XKR Coupe Jaguar, these domestic bargains are to be built on surplus public land bought by the Government and are a cool £100,000 less than the average cost of a first-time buyer's home.

House builders were also buzzing over Gordon Brown's pledge in last July's spending review to throw £1.3 billion into the housing pot over the next three years.

The plans, which include £250 million in PFI credits for new-build housing, will offer private developers increased opportunity to gain access to social housing grants and to work in partnership with housing associations to build and maintain developments.

But regeneration experts warned that Mr Prescott's sustainable communities would not be very sustainable without massive complementary investment in infrastructure.