Wonders will never cease, eh?
The government is to launch a \”house swap\” programme, reminiscent of Norman Tebbit\’s call for the jobless to \”get on your bike\”, in an attempt to encourage people to move around the country to find work.
The controversial plan to tackle the unemployment crisis means people living in social housing will be helped to uproot their families in order to chase jobs. Details of the scheme are yet to be finalised, but it is understood the plan would involve a nationwide database of house swaps and the removal of any barriers to people in social housing moving between regions.
It\’s a well known idea (the Oswald Hypothesis) that high home ownership rates increase unemployment. The reason being that it\’s easier to move from one rental to another while chasing a new job than it is to sell up and buy again while chasing a new job. Thus home ownership which is \”too high\” (that point being highly arguable) will increase unemployment by reducing the mobility of the labour force.
Note that according to this logic Gordon Brown increased unemployment by raising stamp duty on housing transactions: he drove a tax wedge into the market and made it even less liquid. Thanks Gordo.
OK, fine, but what has this to do with social housing?
Well, of the three forms of housing tenure, private rental, private ownership and social rental, the last is the most immobile. It\’s hard enough to change houses within a specific LA and virtually impossible to get onto the list of another LA. I\’ve been told by someone who works in the field (Hi Antonia!) that while it\’s theoretically possible it takes at minimum several years.
So, let\’s go and free up this market a bit, make it easier for social tenants to move across LA boundaries and thus increase the mobility of the labour force.
It\’s not a huge effect, to be sure: from memory it\’s something like a 10% increase in house ownership rates leads to a 1% (ie, from 3% of the labour force to 4%) over the cycle rise in the unemployment rate. How a change in the mobility of social tenancies will map onto that I\’ve no idea. But still a welcome change, no?