New homes alone won’t solve the hous­ing cri­sis

The Guardian - Journal - - Letters -

The Shel­ter hous­ing com­mis­sion’s re­port (Cross-party call to build 3m new so­cial homes, 8 Jan­uary) stands in dan­ger of sim­ply rack­ing up change-of-use in­fla­tion in land prices, putting the un­earned value up­lift of as much as 70% into the pock­ets of spec­u­la­tors. Un­less the ba­sic struc­ture of hous­ing pro­vi­sion in the UK is changed to re­store to lo­cal au­thor­i­ties pow­ers of com­pul­sory pur­chase, with tax­a­tion on the land-value en­hance­ment, this will be the un­in­tended con­se­quence.

The re­sult of right-to-buy has been the sell-off of 60,000 coun­cil homes with a £3.5bn pub­lic sub­sidy, and 40% of that stock find­ing its way into the hands of pri­vate land­lords, who rent it back, often to the same lo­cal au­thor­ity at hugely in­flated rates. A straight trans­fer of pub­lic wealth into pri­vate hands.

Have the re­port’s au­thors stud­ied the 2016 re­search that showed unim­ple­mented plan­ning con­sents for nearly half a mil­lion homes in Eng­land and Wales? Or that in the same year, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment data an­a­lysed by the on­line es­tate agent HouseSim­ple, the num­ber of empty homes in Eng­land rose for the first time in a decade to 205,293?

There is lit­tle ev­i­dence of a short­fall in the hous­ing stock. The cri­sis we suf­fer from is largely the re­sult of acute mald­is­tri­bu­tion within an eco­nomic struc­ture which en­cour­ages max­i­mum con­sump­tion of a scarce re­source by those with the means to com­mand the mar­ket, at the ex­pense of the many with lit­tle or no ac­cess to cap­i­tal. Land value tax­a­tion is one mech­a­nism which would very swiftly and rel­a­tively pain­lessly pro­vide a coun­ter­bal­ance to this vi­cious cy­cle of ever in­creas­ing dis­par­ity of wealth distri­bu­tion.

The equal­i­sa­tion of VAT on re­fur­bish­ment with the cur­rent zero rate for new house­build­ing would re­move a 20% in­cen­tive to de­mol­ish and re­de­velop. With a level play­ing field, an ob­jec­tive cost com­par­i­son could be made be­tween main­te­nance and re­de­vel­op­ment, with all the so­cial cost the lat­ter in­volves. Kate Mac­in­tosh

Winch­ester, Hamp­shire

Be­fore we start spend­ing £225bn on con­cret­ing over huge tracts of green space, how about do­ing more with the ex­ist­ing hous­ing stock? Rent con­trol, much longer ten­an­cies with, ob­vi­ously, an end to no-fault evic­tions, pe­nal tax­a­tion of prop­erty left empty, and the com­pul­sory pur­chase and im­prove­ment – or re­de­vel­op­ment – of sub­stan­dard rental ac­com­mo­da­tion, and thus its con­ver­sion to so­cial hous­ing, would col­lec­tively be quicker and cheaper. Sure, all of that would soften prices, but the is­sue is homes, not in­vest­ments, and spend­ing power re­leased by lower hous­ing costs would flow into the wider econ­omy. John Wor­rall

Cromer, Nor­folk

This re­port is good news. But there is also an ur­gent need to over­haul the stan­dard ap­proach to the de­sign and gov­er­nance of low-cost hous­ing so it ac­com­mo­dates home-based work. This is often re­stricted or even pro­hib­ited in so­cial hous­ing, which is gen­er­ally cur­rently de­signed to mod­els de­vel­oped in the early 20th cen­tury specif­i­cally to pre­vent this work­ing prac­tice. This is short­sighted and dis­crim­i­na­tory – so­cial ten­ants have as much right to work from home as any­one else. Frances Hol­liss

Emer­i­tus reader in ar­chi­tec­ture, Lon­don Met­ro­pol­i­tan Uni­ver­sity

The cur­rent so­cial hous­ing cri­sis is an ar­ti­fi­cially cre­ated prob­lem be­gun by the po­lit­i­cal dogma in the 1980 Hous­ing Act and de­vel­oped into a cri­sis by the po­lit­i­cal in­ep­ti­tude and in­er­tia of gov­ern­ments of every colour over the four decades since. For al­most the whole of that pe­riod house prices have gone up faster than wages. It takes a bear of very lit­tle brain to re­alise that sooner or later both house pur­chase and rental be­come un­af­ford­able, which is, of course, what has hap­pened. The good news is that be­cause it is an ar­ti­fi­cially cre­ated prob­lem, we have the abil­ity to solve it. How­ever, the cost has been es­ti­mated to be as much as four HS2s, while the net cost might be less than one. This sounds like a rather good deal to me, since fail­ure to get to grips with it is go­ing to tear at the heart of our so­ci­ety over the next decades. Robin How­ell

Bridg­wa­ter,, Som­er­set

Be­fore we spend £225bn on con­cret­ing over huge tracts of green space, how about do­ing more with ex­ist­ing hous­ing? John Wor­rall

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.