So here’s one reason for expensive housing

In one case he wanted to split two flats into four by building an extension, but the government’s planning inspector ruled three of them were significantly smaller than minimum space standards, would be “cramped” and would fail to provide acceptable living conditions. In another case, it emerged that Panayi did not want to provide a £50,000 payment towards affordable housing, as demanded by the borough.

Someone is converting large houses into flats–perhaps not up to standard. But the practice itself is obviously increasing the supply of housing units in the area assuming they’re held to standard. But the council gets to demand a £50k payment just because?

Better to blow up the system, no?

A London council’s fight against unfit rented housing has resulted in a single landlord being forced to submit 140 applications to prove his apartments are lawful accommodation.

OK

Ninety-six of the 140 planning applications he has had to submit to prove his apartments are lawful have been successful and he has won 13 appeals against some of those that were refused.

Hmm.

40 comments on “So here’s one reason for expensive housing

  1. Fifty grand?!?!?!? I spent about £500, yes five *hundred* quid, splitting my 4-bed terraced house into two 2-bed flats. WTBF gives the council the right to demand 100 times the money it cost off me? They’re already now getting twice the council tax due to it being twice as many dwellings.

  2. Has anyone defined what cramped means here? I know a bloke who uses a camper van as his business accommodation. Bed, laptop, phone, food from ready meals with a microwave. Much cheaper than a hotel.

  3. If it’s £50k you will of course find council employees the length and breadth of the land prepared to overlook that for a smaller sum.

  4. Sounds like the landlord is a bit of a wrong’un, but there is a housing shortage in London that he has the right to exploit.

    Watching the Groan’s video, we’ve got a lady paying £255 a week for a tiny space. So over a grand a month. She could have a whole (small) house for that not *that* far from Laaaahndon if she’s paying for it herself. But I suspect that it’s housing benefit that’s paying the most of that.

    Then, we have a chap who’s also living in one of the little studios who has enough disposable to eat takeaway practically every day, housing benefit or not.

    So again, the Groan has picked two cases that don’t elicit as much sympathy as they are trying to generate. But then, if your worldview causes you to think the that world ends waaaay before the M25…

  5. abacab: “So again, the Groan has picked two cases that don’t elicit as much sympathy as they are trying to generate.”

    They do this so unfailingly that’s I’ve learned not to bother reading…

  6. abacab – “So again, the Groan has picked two cases that don’t elicit as much sympathy as they are trying to generate.”

    I used to think that was because they were gullible. Then I thought it was because they are stupid. Now I think that they cannot find a more deserving candidate. That is, there is basically nothing wrong with the UK.

    I wonder how many other people follow the same route from the Labour Party to what is amusingly called the Tories?

  7. “I used to think that was because they were gullible. Then I thought it was because they are stupid. Now I think that they cannot find a more deserving candidate. That is, there is basically nothing wrong with the UK.”

    I think it’s largely “we have this narrative to push”, they can’t find any objetively real oppression to show, so they grasp at straws and convince themselves that what they’re showing is really bad. And are so ideologically blinkered and committed to the narrative that they cannot take a step back and think “how would normal people look at this case and analyse it?”

    Hence the Mirror covering that eviction of a council family a while back cos they apparently couldn’t pay something, yet were coming out of the house with Waitrose bags, designer clothes, expensive electronics, and all this with the Sky TV antenna clearly visible on the wall of the 4 bed detached property.

  8. abacab – “I think it’s largely “we have this narrative to push”, they can’t find any objetively real oppression to show, so they grasp at straws and convince themselves that what they’re showing is really bad.”

    Sure – they can’t find a genuine case. What are the chances of you reaching into a bag of M&Ms and pulling out a brown one? Twelve times in a row? Why is it they never get a genuine case?

    There really can’t be much wrong with the UK.

  9. @smfs

    Absolutely. If the UK were the horror they wish to portray, they would have no problem at all finding a genuine case of proper hardship.

  10. This is what I’ve been telling you all but you don’t want to listen.

    Its not that the answer to the question ‘Can I build houses here?’ is ‘No’ its that its ‘Yes, but they have to be built like this, and have this sort of roof, and insulated like this, and have a cycle access to the town centre, and not be built at density more than this, but less than this, and you have to pay the council £££ towards local amenities, and also provide one in 3 of the proposed houses cheaply for affordable housing’.

    This means that the price of housing is broadly set by the regulatory costs of building them, not the cost of the land they sit on. So regardless of how much land the local authority might allocate to housing, developers won’t apply for planning and start building houses unless they can achieve a high enough price to pay for all those costs. You could compulsory purchase the land from the landowner for zero cost and the maximum reduction in price per house would be about 20K, most likely less. The entire rest is not planning gain (the additional value achieved before a house is built, when going from agricultural land to outline housing permission) but regulatory costs of building a new house.

    These costs are easily seen – if one takes a plot that already has a house on it, but is say run down and not worth repairing, despite the land already being ‘housing land’ for planning purposes, all the costs detailed above would still apply if one wished to demolish it and build a new one (or more).

    So it is not planning per se that needs liberalising, more the regulatory costs of building houses.

  11. What’s the increased value of his property from the conversion? How much is left after the £50k? Is that enough to justify his time, expenses, risk and a respectable return? If it’s not enough then the council are idiots, if it is then he’s an idiot.

    Over-regulation is a problem, but let’s remember that the state is already rigging the housing market against buyers and renters.. especially those at the lower end.. it’s nowhere even close to a free and functioning market, so the state has some obligation to (try to) ensure quality.

    Taking a slice of the profits to put towards the social housing that’s an inevitable requirement due to the very system that enables that profit, is fair enough. As long as the number is right.

  12. “Better to blow up the system, no?”

    No, better to reform it. Life on this densely populated island without some form of planning and development control would rapidly become intolerable.

  13. The commenters above, ridiculing the cases the Graun chooses to highlight,haven’t much insight into the sort of readership the paper enjoys. When you’ve had a women telling you that Pampers should be free because she, on £40k p/a +, considers it “unfair” she’s obliged to spend her own money on her kid’s shit output, you acquire some.

  14. Cramped and substandard according to the planners, but clearly not according to the tenants.
    Why? Because the planners apply an absolute standard whereas the tenants take the best they can get.
    Doing things the planners’ way means better housing for some, but no housing for others.

  15. “The commenters above, ridiculing the cases the Graun chooses to highlight,haven’t much insight into the sort of readership the paper enjoys. ”

    oh sure, I appreciate that it’s designed to push the prejudicial buttons of their own readership. However, The Groan engages in campaigning journalism, supposedly to convert others (see, for instance, their attempts to influence US elections in the past). This is one of the reasons why they were so upset by the Brexit vote – they hoped to influence the unwashed to vote their way, and were mighty upset when it didn’t go according to plan.

    They struggle to understand that their appeal is entirely within their 100k subscribership bubble.

  16. @abacab
    You have people with an enormous sense of righteous entitlement. It’s impossible for them to understand the majority of people neither share it nor feel much obligation to cater to it.

  17. Jim said:
    “Its not that the answer to the question ‘Can I build houses here?’ is ‘No’ … The entire rest is not planning gain but regulatory costs of building a new house.”

    Aye, that’s probably true now.

    However I think it was planning gain, but the State has captured most of it through these regulatory methods.

    As you say, just giving more planning permission wouldn’t help much now, because these other regulations would still add the cost.

    But also just removing the regulations wouldn’t help, because the planning gain would still be there; it would just revert to the developers.

    It needs both – removing the regulations and the planning constraints.

  18. What on earth is wrong with government taking a share of the free money that granting planning permission otherwise gives to property owners/developers? Surely they should tax that rent right up to just below the point where there is no longer sufficient incentive to develop properties?

  19. ” I think it was planning gain, but the State has captured most of it through these regulatory methods.”

    Pretty much. The question is – how much regulation could be removed, without (as Theophrastus rightly points out) making life intolerable for everyone else both on and near new unregulated developments?

    Personally I suggest that much of building regs could be abolished – large amounts are due to climate change bollocks for example. As long as basic safety construction standards are met, design and twiddly bits should be the domain of the developer and his customers, not the State. Then there’s environmental protection and archaeological protection – how much of that could be removed? Then there’s the ‘affordable housing’ element – that could go if the idea was to collapse the cost of housing anyway. Stuff like roads and traffic management would have to stay – you couldn’t allow a developer to build a 1000 houses and have them all accessed via the existing small country lanes for example, or not to improve road junctions close by to accept all the new traffic. Ditto sewerage and utility provision – the local network would need to be able to cope with the extra demand, or the developer would have to pay for new capacity. Then there’s schools etc – who should pay for them? Its no good saying ‘the council tax on the new houses’ because £1000-1500 per house won’t be enough. 1000 new houses would bring in £1-1.5m pa in council tax, but require several primary schools and a secondary school to be built, at a considerable capital cost, and have running costs as well. Some one has to fund the capital cost, and I don’t see why that shouldn’t be a combination of the developer/landowner/new house customer, as they are the ones causing the extra demand for services, not existing council tax payers, or the general taxpayer.

  20. The catastrophic “management” of housing by local authorities is just a total mess and a rolling wreck.

    The absolute neck of some officials in trying to ransom planning approval has to be seen to be believed. It is also a cesspit of corruption where bureaucratic caprice can pay handsomely.

    That said – “they” know that social housing / S106 has added 20% to the price of a new house.

    Given where the Guardian’s office is – some personal grudgery looks likely

  21. @ Dave,,
    It is not unreasonable for the state to take share of profits, but (i) to demand it to be paid in advance of the profits being earned, let alone cashed in, is not reasonable and (ii) the £50k is not a tax on profits payable to HMRC, which will be proportionate to the profits and the guy will have to pay when he’s made those profits. but an additional levy unconnected to whether or not building the extension generates a profit.
    I don’t think it unreasonable that you should pay tax on your income – but I don’t demand that you pay it into my bank account.

  22. The problem with all the planning and building regs is that we can’t point to individual ones and say: “there’s the problem”.

    Each regulation on its own looks reasonable, its like chucking small pebbles in to a stream, individually they make no change but eventually they’ll gum up the whole stream.

  23. “Kip’s law?”

    Not really, just that anyone who lives in the UK with its shortage of space and ever growing population can easily see what would be the outcome a free for all.

    Would you be very happy if your electric kept cutting off, water pressure dropping, or sewers backing up because someone down the road had just built another 20 houses and connected them all to the existing services without having to ensure there was sufficient capacity, or pay for the additional infrastructure? Or drive along roads meant to serve small villages now serving a housing estate of hundreds of houses? Or struggle to find a school place, or a doctors surgery because thousands of new people had appeared in the locale with no extra provision for them? Or find that your street now floods because the new development across the way didn’t provide for suitable storm water drainage? Is someone to be free to build a block of flats next to Stonehenge?

  24. @Dave & John77
    There’s no reason for their to be an enormous profit gained from turning land into housing. It arises BECAUSE of the restrictions on development & is compounded by credit creation. In a free market houses wouldn’t cost much more than the cost of building plus the agricultural value of the land. Less, because you wouldn’t build on good farming land.

  25. Jim (4:55)

    You missed out Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas. Too many listings are for building of no real merit and the listing applied to the whole building not just a sort of pleasant facade which is often the case. As for Conservation Areas, again seems a nice enough idea until you need to apply for planning permission just to prune a tree.

  26. You do not need Planning Pemission to prune a tree in a Cons ervation Area !

    All those forms you have filled in in vain…

  27. “Or drive along roads meant to serve small villages now serving a housing estate of hundreds of houses?”
    Wouldn’t happen under a liberalised planning system, as the houses wouldn’t sell. The people who want to buy houses would buy elsewhere where the roads were adequate or better.

  28. Bongo, there is a little village near us. Nice little place. A few years back there was a big new development built there – pretty much more than doubled the number of houses in the village. Which has a few shops, a primary school and two exits both onto busy roads.
    A 20 car tailback during busy periods isn’t uncommon.
    I’m not daft, when I need to go there I’ll arrange outside busy times and still be sat in traffic for 10 minutes waiting to get out.

  29. Bongo

    “Wouldn’t happen under a liberalised planning system, as the houses wouldn’t sell.”

    Like all those houses stupidly built on flood plains that are now uninsureable without government intervention?

    People would buy the houses and then demand that the government make the necessary road improvements.

    Mr Lud
    No, not Kip’s Law in my case. I can barely conceive of a more boring occupation than planning. I favour minimising planning regulations in large parts of the country – eg much of Teeside. Elsewhere, I favour protecting land- and townscapes.

    Djc

    You only need permission to prune a tree, in a CA or elsewhere, if it’s subject to a Tree Preservation Order and/or mentioned in a building’s listing. I live in a CA and regularly prune my trees.

  30. Trees: If you are thinking of cutting down a tree or doing any pruning work you must notify the Council 6 weeks in advance. This is to give the Council time to assess the contribution the tree makes to the character of the conservation area and decide whether to make a Tree Preservation Order.

    https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/what-is-designation/local/conservation-areas/

    Conservation Area designation also gives protection to trees by requiring notice to be given to the Local Authority before any works are carried out to any tree that is over 75mm in diameter. Contact the Council’s Tree Officer for advice.

    https://www.southsomerset.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control/conservation/historic-heritage-conservation/conservation-areas/

    You can quibble over the detail of whether this in ‘Planning Permission’: in my book it involves some busybody from the council poking their nose where it don’t belong.

    Look at the local planning listings for any conservation area, most of the items will concern tree pruning.

  31. “Wouldn’t happen under a liberalised planning system, as the houses wouldn’t sell.”

    Yes they would, at a suitably low price. Sensible people might refuse to buy them, but as Theophrastus says chances are people who buy them then would campaign long and hard to get the council to improve the road network. Which after the first (or maybe second) child that got killed crossing the road they would, at everyone else’s expense.

  32. Djc
    Thanks for that. Councils should have a comprehensive list of all TPOs and not be issuing them on a whim when someone decides they need to prune a tree. I suspect that the legal obligation (if it is a legal one) to notify the council is not enforced unless the tree is part of the streetscape. My neighbours and I have been pruning the trees in our walled gardens for decades without any council interference.

  33. So, notify you want to prune a branch. Send in your paperwork, wait 6 weeks.

    Day after the prodnose visits, or at 6 weeks plus 1 day, prune it and send in the paperwork for the next branch.

    Rinse and repeat.

  34. “Yes they would, at a suitably low price”
    There’s that price mechanism at work. If it’s below the cost of building then the developer won’t build at all. Under a liberalised system they’d rather put in houses in places where people actually want them, rather than in one of the small number of areas where government tells you that you can have ’em.
    At a guess around 0.1% of the UK land area has planning permission, and even that has to comply with height rules. Knock that up to an effective 60% and behaviours will change massively.

  35. “Life on this densely populated island without some form of planning and development control would rapidly become intolerable.”

    You’ve never flown over Britain, have you? If you try it sometime, you’ll see vast expanses of green with a few grey areas that are built-up.

    If I remember correctly, about 7% of Britain is built on. You could double the number of houses, build them on bigger plots, and still have less than 20% built on.

    Life has become intolerable in the UK BECAUSE of the Stalinist planning system. The high cost of crappy housing is one of the main reasons I left. My three-bed detached house over here cost less than a flat that used to be half of a council terrace where I used to live in the UK.

  36. “You’ve never flown over Britain, have you? If you try it sometime, you’ll see vast expanses of green with a few grey areas that are built-up.”

    It has nothing to do with the lack of land, and everything to do with the resources that people consume when in houses. If those resources aren’t delivered in time with the development of houses then life does indeed become intolerable for everyone in that locale. Utilities, local services, road networks. Thats what needs some forward planning.

    This is all aprt from the fact that a lot of the green in the UK is in places where no-one wants to live – so the availability of land in Merthyr Tydfil or Northumberland is rather irrelevant if everyone wants to live in the SE.

  37. Theophrastus ” Councils should have a comprehensive list of all TPOs and not be issuing them on a whim when someone decides they need to prune a tree.”

    But they do. A few years ago the neighbouring property to mine wanted to prune a tree. They made an interim TPO. I know this because the council sent me (and presumably all the other neighbours) a notice of it. In fact I got three copies, one to me as leaseholder, another in my capacity as freeholder and a third to my mortgage lender (which was then copied to me). Some weeks later the tree having gone I enquired of the council what had happened to the TPO— oh, we decided not to proceed with it. That’s a lot of useless work being done there.
    As has been said up-thread, it is the cumulative effect of all these regulations, seemingly innocent enough alone, that build up to this planning monster. And bureaucracy would rather enforce the all rules (and insist they need more resources to do so) than use discretion and concentrate on only those cases that matter. Hence another case I could site where an application to improve visibility at a driveway that only require approval for the highway works nonetheless involved surveys of trees and wildlife; simply because one the process is put in chain every body gets to ‘comment’ and poke their nose in.

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.