So I stand corrected. I eat humble pie sir, and I move quickly to warmly welcome the plans by the government to send 13 analysts from CLG to find ways to kickstart more than 226,000 stalled home development sites, in a move "expected to reopen a new chapter in social housing development". After all, we need all the help we can get: the need for new homes is acute; the need for economic activity even more so.
And the issue continues to weigh heavily on everybody's minds. Yesterday's Financial Times had a front page article on a further government push to use house building to boost the economy. The FT reported that cabinet office minister Oliver Letwin, housing minister Grant Shapps and chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander are working on a plan to come up with ways to use the government's balance sheet to drive housebuilding, rather than putting money upfront "in an attempt to help drag Britain out of recession".
Ministers believe that a state guarantee on bonds would allow housebuilders cheaper access to the bond markets. The plan is to be announced by either the prime minister or deputy prime minister next month and (in a consistent move) is likely to include a decision to relax the Section 106 rules under which private housebuilders must incorporate social housing in big developments. This works on the same principal beliefs of the latest Pickles initiative: that these agreements limit profit margins and deter developers from completing projects. Well, we'll see about that.
We are crying out for one bold push in this arena, and the use of what is still a strong balance sheet, in a state guarantee of bonds which could, if presented boldly enough, be the central plank of what would (in an ideal world) be a streamlined and simple set of policies. Residential development is acknowledged as a key driver for infrastructure development. The golden question is always this: how to increase housebuilding without increasing spending?
But UKR would urge ministers and their officials to think things through very carefully before announcing anything. Can we urge coherence and comprehensibility, please? While the government is probably right to resist ideas such as bringing back MIRAS mortgage interest relief, which is always a favourite with the construction boys, you have to concede that at least people understood it.
The other initiatives such as the introduction of land auctions, the "FirstBuy" and "NewBuy" schemes, while all wholly welcome, are fragmented and ill-understood. And please can we not trouble ourselves with any more planning reform after last year's furore (my latest theory is that the Treasury hates planners even more than the developers do). Can we have one package of measures, in one place, with one go-to person, rather than a perpetual drip feed of small initiatives, even if each of these did all represent good ideas.
Bold and simple measures are what is needed, something wholly comprehensible, something that can capture the imagination of all of us out here. It is a tough call (and sadly the words "New Deal" are not available, being worse than meaningless now; FDR should spin in his grave). I see Savills has put out its Sentiment Survey again this morning. I think it will find most housebuilders are still quietly pessimistic. I'm afraid that most believe that construction will not return to its previous boom until the economy is in better shape, it is as simple as that.