Is this really the way to plan the housing market?

Webb believes in a two-pronged approach. First, the development of government-backed alternatives for investment outside the housing market. Secondly, the introduction of a safe and reputable rental sector, possibly by encouraging well-respected businesses such as John Lewis to invest in housing. \”I started thinking one day that if I were 32, living with mum and dad and they couldn\’t release the equity needed for a deposit, who would I like to rent a flat from?\” says Webb. \”And I came up with the answer: John Lewis.\”


We should rent flats from a supermarket and department store chain?

11 thoughts on “Is this really the way to plan the housing market?”

  1. “we should buy flights from a record label?”

    This is something you should appreciate as a proper, red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist – John Lewis has established a reputation for honest dealings and lack of crookery; private landlords in general have established the opposite; so JL have an absolute advantage above other businesses in the landlording (or at least, property management and estate agent) market. Good luck to them…

    Tim adds: It’s one thing for the owners of a brand to expand the brand: quite another for some outside fruit loop to suggest that they should.

  2. I heard Caroline Lucas being interviewed on Week in Westminster, yesterday.

    She referred to the need for government action to make up for what she took as a given – that the private sector fails in providing private rented accommodation.

    I believe that the general acceptance by the main political parties of the status quo whereby land use is carefully restricted through zoning/town and country planning legislation and policy is at the root of the problem.

    But, as I lisented, I did wonder if, as things start from where we are now, a large organistation with proven talent in a) supply to consumers b) making best use of current zoning restictions and c) putting up buildings at short notice
    might do a better job than “buy-to-let” one-property entrepreneurs.

    Citing John Lewis with its co-operative business structure is a nicer way of making the same point to a left-leaning audience.

  3. There’s a general premise, right or wrong, suggesting that if you build new roads more people will drive cars. I wonder how true this is with regards to housing?

  4. Cooperative structure certainly, John Lewis is an expensive place to shop and it offers poor value for money, IMO.

  5. ““I started thinking one day that if I were 32, living with mum and dad and they couldn’t release the equity needed for a deposit … ”

    Sense of entitlement much?

    Private rented accommodation is in a poor state apparently. Massive amounts of taxpayer money goes into private rented accommodation through benefits. I wonder if the two are connected in any way – it is easy money for bad landlords.

    Stop subsidising bad landlords and let renters do their magic in picking the properties they are prepared to spend their own money securing. Too many people are spending other people’s money without a care to quality or value.

  6. Hmm. My local Tesco and my local Sainsbury are large flat buildings, both fairly recently built in nice locations. Sainsbury is right next to the (well maintained) canal.

    Change the planning laws so that mixed deveolpments are encouraged, give some incentives for developers, why not have flats and apartments built above shopping developments?

    Currently, there’s no incentive, and arguably a strong disincentive. Turn that around, see what happens.

    Agree with Gareth though, the green belt and other zoning controls do put a major stop on the availability of affordable rental developments, combine that with the massive direct subsidy and you get a problem.

  7. Change the planning laws so that mixed deveolpments are encouraged, give some incentives for developers, why not have flats and apartments built above shopping developments?

    Not usually a good idea, that. Buildings should generally be for a specific use, not dual-use. The building codes recognise this by varying depending on building use. The building services alone would be difficult to engineer, because you’d either need two separate systems (costing money and taking up space) or they’d either be overengineered or underengineered. It can be done, but is usually only found in city centres where space is at a premimum and costs can be recovered.

    Also, houses tend to outlast commercial or industrial buildings, mainly because the manner in which humans inhabit a building has not changed as much as the manner in which business use buildings. You could well ened up with a load of families living above an empty, and entirely useless, commercial property in 20 years time.

  8. Not a very representative quote from the article
    which covers a lot of interesting points.Anybody that quotes Andrew Oswalds’s quite-old-now discovery that places with high proportions of owner-occupation have high unemployment is not to be taken altogether lightly. Of course there is scant recognition that the inflated cost of land is the cause of unaffordable housing: 100k for land 80k for bricks and mortar in UK. This issue is too bleedin obvious to warrant attention from the political classes who strive to make it worse.

  9. I am surprised that the 32 year old did not demand his parents move into a flat and he take over their home.
    There must be some good socialist justification for this notion.

  10. John Lewis would certainly be interested in this. They already assess areas for cachet before agreeing to put a Waitrose in them. New-build developers work hard to persuade them to put a Waitrose up as it increases the value of their houses. John Lewis are already involved in the process. This would be quite a small next step, and I’d be surprised if they weren’t already at least looking into it.

    The problem with the UK’s rental sector isn’t price. As far as I can see, you can rent a pretty good house at a much better price than buying it. The problem is stability. People in, say, Germany, can rent a flat or a house and stay in it their whole lives and pass it on to their children, which is exactly what you want once you’re settling down and getting a family. In the UK, there just isn’t much like that available: you rent, you do it on the understanding that the landlord might ask you to leave and refuse to renew your lease pretty much any time. The British obsession with homeowning may come partly from a desire to actually own property, but a lot of it springs from the fact that owning is the only reliable way to get a stable family home in this country. A government scheme to try and incentivize the creation of a proper stable long-term private rental sector could be good. If done right, of course.

    Plus, of course, there’s the whole problem with the landlord hoiking your rent up if you improve the place. There’s a perverse incentive.

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