Polly still doesn\’t get it, does she?

The government inherited a severe housing shortage: Labour failed to build, too. But cutting housing benefit turns a shortage into a crisis. Social housing is shrinking, while the cost of renting or buying is well beyond the reach of growing numbers. As the squeeze worsens, rents are rocketing, up by 4.3% last year, up by a third in three years in London. As people can\’t pay, landlord evictions have risen by 70%. Slum landlords are back: 42% of tenants are in sub-standard properties. Labour promises regulation. Rent controls are needed too.

 

We have too little housing. Thus we should have price controls on the price of housing.

Err, right. Reducing the price of something is a well known way of increasing the supply of it isn\’t it?

70 comments on “Polly still doesn\’t get it, does she?

  1. I stand to be corrected here but surely the answer is to build more social housing and this would in turn bring down rents? Currently, the coalition’s affordable rent policy allows landlords to charge up to 80% of market rent.

    It’s true their is a massive demand for private rented housing but this is, at least in part, due to the shortage of social housing.

    Or am I talking bollocks?

  2. surely the answer is to build more social housing and this would in turn bring down rents?

    Or build more housing full stop? An awful lot of people would buy if they could, but high prices and the need for a massive deposit (esp in the South East) means that despite having salaries that could sustain a mortgage they continue to rent, either becuase it’s more cost efficient, or whilst they save for a deposit. Increasing lending doesn’t help, I assume, because cheap/easy credit increases the price again. Increasing the supply might help though.

    So what makes it not worth a builders’ while to build more (because they would if it were profitable)?

    I don’t know. I’m assuming it’s to do with planning – how long it takes and how much it costs, but I’m only guessing.

  3. Yes I was thinking about the millions of low income families (of which I’m one, minimum wage employee with disabled partner and two kiddies) for whom buying just isn’t an option. We can just about manage to afford the rent but only because we are lucky enough to live in a co-operative housing property (rent: £73 a week, 3 bed bungalow). A similar property on the private market in the same area would be well over double that, which we certainly couldn’t afford.

  4. Maybe the issue isn’t a shortage of housing (how can it be, when wherever I look these days, I see more concrete boxes springing up?) but an overabundance of people?

  5. Sam>

    Basically there’s no homebuilding in London, nor has there been in a couple of decades, because there’s nowhere to build on. There’s no land left unbuilt-on, and demolitions are all-but forbidden. Boris was (not entirely unreasonably) rather pleased with himself for overseeing an increase in home-building in London in his first term – but it was a total of 50k in 4 years, which is ludicrously negligible in a city the size of London.

    We really only have two options: build some ultra-dense high rise developments in place of some suburban housing, or build transport links such that people can commute daily to London from, say, Peterborough.

  6. Julia>

    “Maybe the issue isn’t a shortage of housing (how can it be, when wherever I look these days, I see more concrete boxes springing up?) but an overabundance of people?”

    It’s not overabundance as much as uneven distribution. The way the population of the UK is arranged is analogous to a train-carriageload of commuters all crammed together in the standing section at one end whilst the seats are left empty. (Clearly, if those people were to have a discussion about whether it was OK to let other people onto the train, they’d come up with some very odd answers.)

  7. The “social housing is shrinking” link takes you to an article on victims of Domestic Violence in the USA. Just what does Polly expect the UK government to do about that?

  8. Just what does Polly expect the UK government to do about that?

    Fail to do anything at all. So she can raise it to the rafters as yet another example of the uncaring incompetence of the Tories. That there is simply nothing any UK government could do is an irrelevance. Because she _CARES_. And that is sufficient.

  9. Stupid cow probably thinks the Soviet practice of declaring the price of a loaf was 3 kopeks will solve everything.

    If they really wanted to make a difference, they could a) stop assigning social housing for life to reduce the incentive to block and b) increase council rents to market

  10. Dave: “Basically there’s no homebuilding in London, nor has there been in a couple of decades, because there’s nowhere to build on. There’s no land left unbuilt-on…”

    I guess you need to define ‘London’. If you mean the Square Mile, fine.

    But I can assure you, in the suburbs, there’s housing being built everywhere I look!

  11. @Dave
    I guess the marginal hiring costs are not much lower elsewhere, thus companies are not enticed to leave the London area.

  12. @KJ

    I take your point but wouldn’t that be addressed? The average age of a first time buyer in London is now 37, and it’s over 30 in a lot of the country. That means there are a lot of people on pretty good salaries who are in the rental market, pushing up rents for everyone else (hence why market rents in your area are high) In turn this means rental properties are a good investment, so people with capital to invest are competing to buy, pushing up the prices, and meaning that they need to increase rent to get a good return &c &c. It’s a vicious circle with very few winners.

    Building more social housing addresses the problem at the other end, but only if you can find a way to make it pay for the builders. Again, they would if it made them money.

    @ Dave: Tru dat. London needs to export people. The thing is that when local authorities started suggesting that maybe there was no real need to subsidise lots of people to live in zone 1, and maybe they could live somewhere else, a huge stink ensued. As someone who spent 8 years living in zone 5 and commuting because that’s what we could afford I have precisely f***-all sympathy with said stink-kickers.

  13. Julia>

    I was talking about the whole of London including the suburbs. There isn’t literally zero construction of new homes, but, as I said, 10k new homes a year in a city with a population of 10+ million people barely even qualifies as a drop in the ocean.

    For some perspective, the entire Olympic Village, one of the largest residential developments in London in years, will provide less than 3k new homes. We’re short something like a million in London.

    The Olympic Village is about 250k square metres. We ought to be putting more like quarter of a million new homes there than 2.5k.

  14. The Olympic Village is about 250k square metres. We ought to be putting more like quarter of a million new homes

    Okay. So a 2-bed flat is, what, about 65m^2 for a smallish one? Assume, with roads and everything you are going to get about 50% housing density. 2.5 m high as a minimum? You’d have to carpet the village in 130 storey, 325m high tower blocks? Or have I got something wrong here?

  15. @ Dave and SE
    Planning regulations introduced by the Attlee government limit the number of dwellings (houses or flats) that you can build per acre. That is why the Tower blocks have empty space all round them.
    We need to change the law to permit sensible numbers of flats to be built in places like Stratford but every attempt gets screamed down as “pandering to slum landlords”. Until then, ideas of putting quarter-of-a-million homes in Stratford are hopeless dreams.

  16. We need to change the law to permit sensible numbers of flats to be built in places like Stratford

    Carpet-bombing the area with 325m tower blocks, a good bit higher than the Shard, I’ll note, doesn’t seem ‘sensible’ regardless of whether it is illegal or not. I was questioning Dave’s arithmetic re the Olympic Village not, say, whether 250k new flats throughout London would be a good idea or not.

  17. Julia>

    Absolutely. But building infrastructure is proportionally cheaper for higher density housing.

    SE>

    50% density is far too low, for starters. Arguably 65 sqm is too large, because there’s a real demand in London for cheap (and therefore smaller) housing. Mainly, though, I was going by similarly sized developments in Hong Kong and more talking about the order of magnitude than the exact figure. Call it 100k instead and we’re down to 50 storey blocks without even covering more ground or making flats smaller.

  18. Is this one of those things where ‘shortage’ doesn’t actually mean shortage?

    What it sounds like is a political idea that communities should be a mix of rich and poor and that taxpayer’s money ought to used to subsidise that where communities are expensive to live in.

    It always comes across as patronising. As if the idea is that the well to do will be setting an example to lower orders and giving them something to be aspirational about. And also giving them a subsidised source of housekeepers, nannies and waiters…

  19. “Carpet-bombing the area with 325m tower blocks, a good bit higher than the Shard, I’ll note, doesn’t seem ‘sensible’”

    Hum, I seem to have confused everyone with my wittering. I certainly wasn’t proposing exact figures, just trying to get across an idea. We need to take a suburb of London and redevelop it like it’s Hong Kong or somewhere similar, with ultra-high-density housing – just like we do with office blocks in the City. People will then have a choice of high-density housing (with all the advantages and disadvantages) if they want it, rather than driving density up over the whole city.

  20. For people who think Hong Kong sounds too extreme just take a look at Australian city-center housing. High-density housing can be very nice if it’s done right.

  21. @ SE
    Not intending to say that 250,000 flats in 250,000 square metres of Stratford would sensible, just that having more dwellings per acre when building mansion blocks (let alone tower blocks) than when building bungalows would be sensible.

  22. A suggestion: how about establishing a sovereign wealth fund with printed money, specifically to build new houses. These could be let at market rents, which, if the fund is big enoough, should lead to a decreas in rents. They could be sold off on part-buy basis to tenants, and the proceeds remitted to the Bank of England and cancelled, thus squaring the circle.

    The principal problems are planning (As Tim has often pointed out), being unable to obtain a mortgage, and the deliberate policy of pricing “social housing” at below market rates. All these have perverse effects on the provision of homes.

  23. “Absolutely. But building infrastructure is proportionally cheaper for higher density housing.”

    Infrastructure isn’t just drains and electricity, though. It’s transport, roads, schools, facilities, etc. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t fancy living in some sci-fi dystopia where humans are living on top of one another like worker bees.

  24. The Government needs to restart/accelerate the process of distributing arms of the State around the country. It seems to have worked well for DVLC in Swansea and parts of the DHSS in Newcastle.

    We could start by the transport department to Cornwall or Cumbria or even north Scotland, assuming they don’t do us a favour and vote for independence. That would have the double benefit of not only releasing housing and office space, but make them consider he problems of transport in the regions a bit more seriously.

    I’m sure readers could come up with many more examples.

    There is also the added benefit of the more dispersed Government is the harder and more expensive it is for rent seekers to influence policy.

  25. ” I don’t know about you, but I really don’t fancy living in some sci-fi dystopia where humans are living on top of one another like worker bees.”

    Fascinating comment.

    Truth is, lot of people wouldn’t mind it in the slightest. Might even prefer it. A whole lot of Europe does. It’s been a source of amusement, driving round Spain. Cross dozens of kilometres of bugger all & the next little pisspot town’s mostly 10 storey apartment blocks. It’s not they’ve no land to build on. They prefer high density. And I can see the point. Nothing is more than 5 minutes walk away. The shops, bars, restaurants are almost extensions of the apartment. I can see why they’d prefer that over a Brit style sprawl of little boxes & few amenities.

  26. “I really don’t fancy living in some sci-fi dystopia where humans are living on top of one another like worker bees.”

    And the choice not to will always be available to you. But many people actually do want to live as close to ‘the action’ as they possibly can.. and are more than happy to live a high-density lifestyle in order to achieve that.

    I wonder if we’re scared of high-density housing for the masses in the UK because of the failed experiments of the past?

  27. It seems to have worked well for DVLC in Swansea and parts of the DHSS in Newcastle.

    yes, although it does cause problems when it becomes the main employer and, say, the state has to cut back…

  28. “I really don’t fancy living in some sci-fi dystopia where humans are living on top of one another like worker bees.”

    I used to live in a apartment complex in Brisbane with ~600 flats. Pretty dystopian huh? Apart from the large balconies, air-con, two swimming pools, spa, sauna, gym, BBQ areas, manicured gardens and proximity to shops, restaurant, bars, etc.

  29. High density requires lots of bins, parking, road network to handle it, a few corner shops (off licence, butcher, off licence, general goods, off licence etc) and so on.
    Not too far from us a university built some high rise blocks for student accomodation, what with it being the premier method of housing within a certain distance and no-one caring about blast radius of a furnace until after its built…. about 15 storey, 3 blocks. And 20 parking spaces initially between them. Ever so slight problem…. It does work – just not what everyone wants.
    I would also presume that per unit cost is cheaper for high rise?

  30. Richard, while I could possibly agree with him about rent levels, I have never come across any rental property that hasn’t cost at least a thousand pounds a year in costs. Some years more than others, some issues not raising their heads every year.

  31. Martin Davies (#33), that was my point.

    £80/week is about right for the income for social housing, but average costs are over £3,000 per unit.

    You can do it for cheaper than that, but I’d expect at least £1,500 costs on average even if it was incredibly efficient.

  32. RIGHT let’s be clear about this:
    1. NOBODY tells me to build poxy ‘social housing ‘ on my investment farm land. I will build upmarket executive dwellings when I’m good and ready.
    2. I do not want my Grand-children growing up next door to shiftless, dole scrounging, junkie single parent families. Actually, I admit this is a slight exaggeration as the Park keeps hoi polloi at least 3/4miles away. Still, the sentiment stands for my estate workers.
    3. As for ‘social housing’, the 500 houses I own in The Valleys and OOOP North are my generous provision for the unwashed classes. They are also part of my pension and I’ll not be seeing some bloody do-gooder limiting my income so, HANDS OFF. My son runs the management company to which I pay a generous commission, so he gets the Ferrari and I save the tax.
    4. We only evict if the poxy tenants are more than 6 weeks in arrears, so we are fair landlords.

  33. I see Dr Eoin is still pushing his plan …

    Right. HRA and FOIA have cost “practically nothing”? They may have provided more benefit but …

    He ignores the interest payments on the £113bn government contribution (but half of 216 is not 113?), and he double counts the £113bn (it is both within the government asset and the £216bn Co-op assets.)

    “Given that the assets grow £12bn per year” – not the net assets, they don’t. They grow by £6bn per year (merely the govt handout).

    100k homes = 550k jobs (it’s a simple linear scaling, of course. Not allowed efficiencies of scale in this Socialist Utopia.) Okay … 200k people then are running this Co-op? In year one?

    But, £4000k net income to the Co-op? Seems more or less reasonable (much less outside London but nobody important lives there do they …) Provided, of course, that the rental housing market is completely inelastic to such a significant increase in supply …

    As usual with the Cretinous Crusader, his obvious and blithering innumeracy removes the need to soil yourself by debating his proposals on their putative merits.

  34. You can do it for cheaper than that, but I’d expect at least £1,500 costs on average even if it was incredibly efficient.

    You misunderstand Eoin-onomics. That £1500 isn’t a cost – you’re paying that to somebody which takes them off the dole and results in an insanely (even for Eoin) speculative £153bn windfall for the Treasury.

  35. For London the answer is to move people out.
    (i) Make Berwick on Tweed the capital.
    (ii) Social housing should be supplied by buying up surplus houses in the Irish Republic.

  36. The cost of housing isn’t due to the price of houses, but the price of planning permission, on which the government have a monopoly.

    And unless the people in government planning departments were to personally profit from granting planning permission (which of course would be bribery and corruption) then rising house prices, and hence rents, *won’t* increase supply.

    Given that they would be pushing from both ends, instituting rent controls would make renting out unviable. They would have to sell, house prices would drop a little, and some of those middle class households for who it is currently only just unaffordable would get in. The result would be a transfer of housing from the poorest tenants to richer wannabe-homeowners.

    Rented property would become affordable, but unavailable. There would be a market in finding and getting access to what little there was, so there would soon be a business in providing such access. Letting agencies might take bribes, offer search services, or screen the best tenants, giving landlords a cut. As always with barriers to trade, they create a market in the means to circumvent or cross the barrier.

    Prices would still rise but by other means, and those who now could not find rented accomodation anywhere would be out on the streets. It would likely mean a return of the homeless. If you can’t increase supply, force a reduction in demand.

  37. I wonder if she’s ever stopped to consider why housing is so expensive in GB, but relatively cheap in the rest of the world – even in the rest of Europe.

  38. SB has it.

    The whole problem, the entire problem, is State land controls via the Planning system. Abolish that, and the problem will sort itself; supply will increase and prices fall. But as Mark Wadsworth, DBC Reed et al point out tirelessly, the “home owner cartel” campaign relentlessly to prevent that happening, because falling house prices, while good for everyone else and the economy, are bad for those people who have “invested” in property. And so the madness continues.

    One important element of the Planning Catastrophe is to remember that housing isn’t a homogenous commodity. Demand for housng in particular locations is higher than in others. The result of State control is that people are not allowed to build where there is demand, and are told to build somewhere else, where there is not demand. Just as public transport takes you from somewhere you aren’t, to somewhere you don’t want to be, at a time you don’t want to go, so housing planning tells you to build a house where you don’t want one.

    We dismantled nationalisation of industry, because it was crap. We retain nationalisation of land, despite it being crap. And many of the worst offenders in terms of supporting this are the “Shire Communists” who moan about socialism but expect the State to manage land in ways that benefit them, with ferociously Stalinist intensity.

    The other policy of course would be to stop firing the Money Cannons in the Square Mile, thus deflating the South-East bubble that draws too many people and businesses to one area of the country at the expense of the others. The primary reason for the SE’s bubble is that that is where the State pumps money into the economy and people cluster around it.

    In other words, the two problems here are The State, and The State.

  39. . But as Mark Wadsworth, DBC Reed et al point out tirelessly

    Endlessly, and repetitively, unimaginatively and hideously uniformatively. As they never bother to actually ever offer anything other than a “join our new LVT Utopia. Everything will be wonderful!” as a solution.

  40. Well yes, the whole LVT thing is barking. But it’s often the case that people correctly identify the problem, but then get the wrong solution.

  41. Oh, I’m happy that the problem is “s/S”tate over-control of planning. Even the US zoning system, which is better than our “detailed planning application for everything which we can argue about, fiddle with, lose, send back for trivial amendments etc, etc” has problems.

    But our host is quite clear – sort the planning problem (directly – it’s a state induced problem, they are one of the few categories that are obviously amenable to state-imposed solutions) and then let’s see what’s left. It may not need as much sorting as we might think from this distorted viewpoint.

  42. A sci-fi dystopian nightmare or Bloke in Spain’s community idyll? High-rise can work well in a civilized environment but is rarely as successful in the sphere of social housing. The large balconies, air-con, swimming pools, spa, sauna, gym, BBQ areas, manicured gardens and proximity to shops, restaurant, bars, etc. sounds wonderful when you’re childless and in your 20s, or conversely your 60s. Unfortunately little boxes are what most families aspire to.

  43. BIS @ 27 “Truth is, lot of people wouldn’t mind it [high denaity housing] in the slightest. Might even prefer it. A whole lot of Europe does. It’s been a source of amusement, driving round Spain. Cross dozens of kilometres of bugger all & the next little pisspot town’s mostly 10 storey apartment blocks. It’s not they’ve no land to build on. They prefer high density. And I can see the point. Nothing is more than 5 minutes walk away. The shops, bars, restaurants are almost extensions of the apartment. I can see why they’d prefer that over a Brit style sprawl of little boxes & few amenities.”

    Far be it for me to agree with the remittance man vote, but I’m with you on this. I’ve spent some time with a friend in Milan – there are loads of 10 story blocks of flats, full of respectable middle class families, reasonable price, much better quality than my Edwardian conversion in Islington. Bring it on.

  44. Nick Luke @25. Nothing personal, but you are a rentier, profiting from this country’s planning laws. Don’t you dare get moralising. Work for a living, or fuck off.

  45. “e next little pisspot town’s mostly 10 storey apartment blocks. It’s not they’ve no land to build on. They prefer high density.”

    Luke…name one of those towns please. Your views of Spain are totally at odds with mine.

  46. I think the vital question we are missing is the pent up demand for TW’s postings. He makes one comment in what seems like a day and he gets 50 comments. Does it follow that if he makes 5 posts he will get 10 comments each?

  47. dearieme – “For London the answer is to move people out.
    (i) Make Berwick on Tweed the capital.”

    I have been to Berwick on Tweed. I wouldn’t wish the pen pushers of the Social Services on them. Berwick on Tweed on the pen pushers? That is another matter. This could be a winning policy.

    “(ii) Social housing should be supplied by buying up surplus houses in the Irish Republic.”

    Not a bad idea. My first response is to suggest Somalia. But perhaps that is a bit harsh. How about Jamaica? Lots of our feral underclass would probably like to live there, Hell, a lot of them did. Housing would be cheaper. It would provide a stimulus to the Jamaican economy. Crime would probably be less of a problem as their marijuana would be cheaper – and even if it wasn’t who would notice in Jamaica?

    All we need to do is change the law so that the children of one or more non-British parent are no longer entitled to British citizenship.

    I think it would be a win-win.

  48. Bernie G. – “High-rise can work well in a civilized environment but is rarely as successful in the sphere of social housing. ”

    And that is the point people are missing. Any housing will work well if everyone is Swiss. No housing will work well if they are, well, Jamaican. No, that is too harsh. Jamaican Yardies anyway. Or the British underclass.

    The obvious solution is to try to make sure we have less of an underclass. Here’s two simple suggestions – we make single parenting less attractive and we jail people for a hell of a lot longer in their prime reproductive years as a eugenic measure. Not only would this work to reduce the sort of people who will make any housing estate vile, but encouraging marriage will reduce the demand for housing. As a lot of recent demand has been for people who are not married. More Daily Mail readers seems a sensible policy to me.

    Or go the way of America where Romney would have won but for the votes of welfare Queens.

  49. SMFS, there is, I think, a lot to be said for the establishment of anti-social housing, for the perpetually addicted headbangers with anger management issues, and adverse reactions to concepts like work, soap, and not thumping strangers in the street. The popular leftist theory was that you disperse these people throughout the various strata of law abiding society, and their offspring would become infected by their virtuous and public spirited context. The opposite has happened, the graft has infected the host. It turns out that self-centred immature lazy feckless venality is a rather successful parasite.

  50. All we need to do is change the law so that the children of one or more non-British parent are no longer entitled to British citizenship.

    Like me, you mean? Father’s side goes back to Anglo-Saxon times in Lancashire, mother’s side from Cheshire but her branch was in New Zealand for a few generations. I was born in England, my heritage is nothing but English and according to you I can hop straight back on the banana boat. Go and fuck yourself.

  51. I can see why they’d prefer that over a Brit style sprawl of little boxes & few amenities.

    A lot of Europeans I speak to cannot understand the British insistence on having a “garden”. Now having a garden is fine; but a 4 sqm concrete patch off the back of a house does not a garden make. And it’s not like Britain has the weather to sit outside much. Take a train anywhere in the UK and you see rows of houses backed by tiny, decrepit gardens. This space would be far better used for more rooms.

    Or maybe not. Clearly this is something important to Brits. But best not to complain you don’t have any urban housing space when 20% of your housing plot is concreted over to house a shed, an old bike, and 3 wilting plants.

  52. Monty – “there is, I think, a lot to be said for the establishment of anti-social housing …”

    I can see the advantages of this, I have to say. Better to concentrate thugs in a few failing schools than leave them free to mug and sexually assault pupils across the system for instance. I have seen British Housing Estates surrounded by high bared wire fences and the locals told me they were built to keep the residents in.

    “The popular leftist theory was that you disperse these people throughout the various strata of law abiding society, and their offspring would become infected by their virtuous and public spirited context. The opposite has happened, the graft has infected the host. It turns out that self-centred immature lazy feckless venality is a rather successful parasite.”

    I agree with that. The question is whether moving the underclass to Jamaica would have any adverse consequences on the poor long suffering Jamaicans? I mean it is a pretty anti-social place already with one of the highest murder rates in the world. I would like to think that it would have a positive impact on our underclass – a dose of reality to make them realise how good British life really is. But maybe not. Would the Jamaicans take them? Well it would be a bit of money in the local economy. Not all bad I suppose.

    Eugenics is inherently associated with Socialist regimes (like Sweden) because the feckless poor are an inherent problem with the system. Free riders will inevitably bring any socialist system down. In a cruel uncaring capitalist society we can say those people are free to die in the gutter and so solve the problem that way. But we can’t do that any more than we can sterilize them. So is there a solution or will the non-feckless become more like them? Perhaps it is time to suggest a Victorian solution? We should make Domestic Service for young girls tax deductable if they reside in the home of their employer. That way the feckless young are taken out of their “homes” and brought up in a decent environment. They will get to see how a real family behaves. It could rub off. You know, it might just work.

    55Matthew L – “Like me, you mean? …. I was born in England, my heritage is nothing but English and according to you I can hop straight back on the banana boat. Go and fuck yourself.”

    Yes, like you. I would point out that I did not suggest the system be applied retrospectively, but I don’t think I can be bothered. Instead I think I am going to sit here and see if I can provoke you to have a coronary. I think I probably can.

    But before I do that, can you please explain to me just why Britain owes the half-foreign children of any British citizen the most precious gift in the world – British citizenship? We didn’t for the adopted children of Gay people. We still don’t for the children of the unmarried (more or less). We don’t for the children of those British people unfortunate to have served the Empire for a few generations. So what is it about people in your situation that makes you respond in this particular way?

  53. I can’t help wondering, with high density housing, if there’s some critical mass that kicks & where once you pass it the lifestyle becomes a lot more enjoyable.
    Trouble with the UK & its planning is, where we do build high we tend to space out as well so you get those tower block estates with unfriendly no-man’s land between them & the amenities a mile down the road. Yet, curiously, when land costs have required both high & compact we end up with some of the more desirable places to live. Parts of St John’s Wood, in London, for instance.
    If you think about it, it’s essentially why housing in the centre of towns fetches high prices, the sprawl of the suburbs less, yet prices can start to climb again reaching the outskirts. There’s a premium for the convenience of the centre & a premium for the wide open spaces. But we always seem to ignore the former whilst trying the impossible task of giving everyone a token share of the latter.

  54. ” The question is whether moving the underclass to Jamaica would have any adverse consequences on the poor long suffering Jamaicans?”
    The experience of a Jamaican neighbour would tend to indicate not. Poor woman was blessed with a son who, by the time he’d reached 12 years (but the physique of a 16 year old) & absorbed everything London schooling had to offer, bar reading ‘ritin ‘n ‘rithmatic, was becoming a more familiar part of the local police’s lives than their own families. So she sent him off to Jamaica & her sister for a couple of years. Apparently his rude boy attitude & defiance didn’t survive the sister’s beating the shit out of him when he first tried it on. The very polite, studious, 14 year old that returned was a great improvement although he did tend to be particularly nervous around small, tubby black women.

  55. For once I agree with Arnald. Jesus weeps, indeed.

    Have any of you actually lived or worked on a high-rise social housing estate? I have. They are about as close to hell on earth as it is possible to get in the UK. What makes you think that new ones at even higher density would magically be nicer places to live? They might be – for five minutes. Then the same ghetto lettings policies would be applied (by the same local authorities that have created the problems on the existing high-rise estates), the same criminal underclass would move in, and the same problems with drugs, crime and vandalism would appear. Only even more so, because there would be far more people packed even closer together. And if you think there would be “infrastructure” to support what amounts to a human equivalent of factory farming, you’re dreaming. No local authority would waste money on schools, medical centres etc. for places like that – there would be hell to pay from their ratepaying voters if they did. And even if some courageous local authority did try to create some sensible facilities staffed by hardworking and talented people, those people would be driven out and the facilities rendered unusable in very short order.

    You lot really don’t know what you’re talking about. Go and spend some time finding out about the problems on existing high-rise estates – preferably at first hand – before you pontificate any more about the desirability of high-density social housing. You annoy me.

  56. @ Frances
    The City of London’s Golden Lane Estate – social housing – included high rise blocks, as did its Barbican Estate, largely modelled on Golden Lane, using the same architects and planned to be socially mixed. I lived on the fifth floor (actually 8 levels above the lawn) for more than ten years.
    For the last forty years I have maintained that Tower blocks may be suitable, as they are in Paris, for the wealthy city-dwellers, but not as council flats for families re-housed from slum clearance. Play areas for kids are fine in theory but not in practice if they live on the fifteenth floor and only one of the lifts work so Mum cannot get to them within ten minutes if something goes wrong. More recently I have suggested that purpose-built tower blocks could be suitable for student flats.
    My comments about relaxing planning constraints do not necessarily involve high-rise flats, just someone actually THINKING whether you need three times as much green space per resident around mansion blocks as around bungalows. Not social housing.

  57. John,

    I worked as a housing officer on the notorious Pepys Estate in Deptford, which is a mixed medium- and high-rise estate. When I say these estates are hell on earth, I speak from first-hand experience. But it was originally an award-winning development.

    You didn’t pick up on my point about local authorities and lettings policies, though. Pepys Estate has nice flats in a lovely location seriously let down by the people Lewisham Council sends there and its abysmal lack of care and concern for the place – and in that respect it is exactly like its predecessor the GLC. The problem is the local authority, not the estate.

    Interestingly, part of Pepys Estate is now privately owned, including one of three high-rise towers. Aragon Tower was sold to a developer, which built five luxury penthouse flats on top of it and did up the rest of the flats to a high standard. It has panoramic views of the Thames and Canary Wharf, and the flats sell for a phenomenal amount of money. But the rest of the estate is still a dump. The story of the development of Aragon Tower – and the demolition of part of the rest of the estate – was the subject of an award-winning TV documentary called The Tower, which I watched with great interest (obviously). Honestly, nothing has changed since I worked there.

  58. Oh, and of course the Aragon Tower flats are sold to City types. So you are right about high-spec high-rises being suitable for the wealthy city-dwellers. But that is not what Polly, or Tim, or anyone else was talking about. They were talking about social housing. And these high-rises are UTTERLY unsuitable as social housing for families on benefits with serious social problems. In fact I don’t think high-rise blocks are suitable for families at all – and although I castigate Lewisham’s lettings policy, at least they stopped putting families with small children on the 22nd floor of Eddystone Tower, which rarely had working lifts, as the GLC used to….When I worked on Pepys Estate something like two thirds of my tenants were on benefits. I doubt if that proportion has improved.

  59. In France, HLM – low cost housing – is built through investors receiving tax relief on interest and being able to depreciate the investment for a limited number of years, 10 I think. This builds good quality housing whilst giving investors a tax shelter and reasonable returns. All rental property in France is governed by a rent control measured in line with inflation in building costs and land, so no greedy private landlords to screw tenants or govt paying housing benefit on high priced homes.

  60. Geoff

    You’ve completely missed the point.

    The estate I was talking about is publicly owned and rent is paid to the local authority. The flats themselves are nice flats – by any standards they are good quality housing – and the location is a prime piece of real estate on the banks of the Thames which is worth an absolute fortune.

    But the estate is a dump and has been so for a very long time. Nor is it the only sink estate in Lewisham. In my view the primary cause of the mess that this estate and others are in is the fact that they are owned and managed by a local authority that operates simply dreadful lettings and management policies. There are no “greedy private landlords screwing tenants” and govt is not “paying housing benefit on high priced homes”. Frankly I think private landlords might run the estate considerably better. They could hardly be worse.

    Flats in the privately-owned part of the estate are sold to rich people who can well afford to pay those prices. Even if they were rented out, the tenants would be paying prices they could afford. Housing benefit simply doesn’t come into it, and I’m not going to lose any sleep over wealthy City types being screwed by greedy landlords, are you?

    It is not the building of social housing that is the problem. It is the letting and management of the properties. You assume that all rental problems are in the private sector. Believe me, they aren’t. Public provision can be even worse.

  61. @ Frances
    I didn’t pick up your point about lettings policy principally because I wasn’t trying to debate with you about the state of council estates: I was trying to acquit myself of suspicion that I advocated high-density ghettoes for the poor. If I had I might say that not all local authorities went in for ghettoisation; some didn’t approve of it but most didn’t because you need to have a large number of estates and a massive housing waiting list to be able to do that.
    # 64 puts most of my arguments rather better.
    When I lived in London I found it remarkable how much better the elderly Peabody buildings were than the much newer and more expensive council houses built and managed by Islington Westminster and the GLC (not the City) which was down to the character of the tenants.
    My lift was only out of order 1 day in ten years, but I rarely used because the stairs were quicker – it was designed to be wheelchair-friendly so was slow opening and closing and had gentle acceleration – and I was a lot younger. For frail elderly people and small children working lifts are essential, but I should prefer tower blocks to contain neither.

  62. ” £55 per unit per year costs. ” WHAT?

    My fees for a 105m^2 apt are AU$2300/qtr. That’s twice dear Eoin’s number A WEEK.

  63. @SE: “As usual with the Cretinous Crusader, his obvious and blithering innumeracy removes the need to soil yourself by debating his proposals on their putative merits.”

    Very good indeed!

  64. The problem here: “Have any of you actually lived or worked on a high-rise social housing estate?” is the two words “social housing.”

    High rise is fine. It’s the social bit that’s the problem.

    I spend some time in the middle of a big city in a high rise. Fabulous. The only problem we get is Brits on holiday, drunk by 19:00, fighting in the halls.

    Luckily they go home.

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