In Brexit-Land

The way we use (and misuse) land is at the core of the housing crisis. I’ve written before about the huge disparity between agricultural and residential land prices, the fact that land is the major element in the value of a house, the appalling level of EU subsidy that goes to big landowners and which props up an inefficient system of land use, and the benefits of a land value tax.

Is there a chance that Brexit could lead to a better and more efficient use of land, and perhaps make more land available for housing?

Well, that will depend upon a number of imponderables or “known unknowns”. But here is my take on some of the key forces that could determine the pattern of land use in post-Brexit England. Continue reading

The Chamberlain effect

Theresa May is a fan of the great Joseph Chamberlain, the statesman who transformed Birmingham in the late 19th century by “nationalising” competing gas and water companies, clearing slums, erecting great civic buildings and creating Haussmann-style vistas. His record on municipal housebuilding is patchy but nonetheless he believed in state intervention to fix failing markets, something that the new Conservative regime appears to be edging towards, at least in housing. Continue reading

The private sector will never build enough homes

It is universally acknowledged that the UK has a housing crisis. But the whole trajectory of Conservative thinking on housing and planning is towards home ownership and away from “affordable” housing built by councils and housing associations.

The government’s current housing plans propose spending £42.7bn on a raft of home ownership initiatives and only £2bn on social and affordable homes. This balance should be reversed – it is time to invest in social housing.

Pumping in money to increase demand without addressing structural supply issues is foolhardy. It simply pushes up prices and makes buying an ever more distant prospect for millions. Is it any surprise that home ownership is at its lowest level for 30 years? Continue reading

The divided social housing sector

The social housing sector is a bit like the Labour party – deeply divided, although not quite so nasty.

On the one side are the pragmatists, those prepared to go with the flow and do the government’s bidding, with its trajectory towards home ownership. Some in this group see a bright future in a more commercial environment, where they build homes for sale and private rent. A tiny few look forward to a future where they can break free from the shackles of state control and become fully private companies. Continue reading