Nearly Zoe, nearly

So we don\’t want a rent cap, but we don\’t want an entire generation under the thumb of rental rip-offs. The most radical answer is also the simplest: more houses need to be built, and they need to be in public hands, so that private landlords are kept honest. The market only looks like this because it\’s all demand and scant supply.

You almost get there but then fall at the last fence.

Yes,the solution to not having enough housing is to build more housing.

Obviously.

The soution to scant supply is to increase supply.

But why this insistence that it should be publicly built housing, housing built only to rent?

Why not just reduce the cost of private house building?

And as we know (Jeebus, I\’ve said it often enough) the largest part of the cost of a house (at least in the South) is the scarcity value of planning permission. So, all we need to do is issue more planning permissions, thus bringing down that scarcity value, the cost of housing and we\’re done, aren\’t we?

And, in fact, the current government is proposing exactly this.

It\’s just that everyone is shouting at them for doing so which is a bit odd really.

20 thoughts on “Nearly Zoe, nearly”

  1. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Zoe mention rent caps and then articulated all the sensible and well-proven faults and unintended consequences of caps.

    It’s something of an achievement seeing such economic good sense from one of the Guardian’s generalist columnists.

    Going all the way and actually advocating deregulation of planning system was probably too much to expect.

  2. I’m with Mi…

    “And as we know (Jeebus, I’ve said it often enough) the largest part of the cost of a house (at least in the South) is the scarcity value of planning permission. “

    That’s because we’ve seen ‘Blade Runner’ and we don’t want that. Well, the hovercars, OK, we want those, but not the overcrowded city…

  3. JuliaM,

    That’s because we’ve seen ‘Blade Runner’ and we don’t want that. Well, the hovercars, OK, we want those, but not the overcrowded city…

    We’re not talking about New Detroit here. Just open up a Google Map, switch to satellite mode and look at how much green there is around towns like Hungerford, Newbury, Wokingham, Henley, Witney and Oxford. Oxford’s hallowed greenbelt is 9 times the size of the city and beyond that you have more countryside.

    We have a valuable resource that we are squandering to allow a bunch of children like the National Trust, Ramblers, the CPRE and various bat/newt protection groups to have their infantile view of the countryside as a museum preserved and to retain the high house prices of existing rural dwellers.

  4. “Just open up a Google Map, switch to satellite mode and look at how much green there is around towns like Hungerford, Newbury, Wokingham, Henley, Witney and Oxford. “

    And why not keep it that way? Why should we plough up any of that green space?

  5. JuliaM “Why should we plough up any of that green space?”

    Because lots of people want houses, and are willing to pay to buy the land (from willing sellers) and to pay to have them built.

    Liberty says that they should be allowed to do so. But instead campaigners, bureaucrats and a few vested interests are stopping them from using their property as they wish.

  6. Of course we could say that everyone has to live in a flat in a tower block, to preserve the countryside.

    But funnily enough, few of the people campaigning against house building live in tower blocks.

  7. Oxford’s green belt is 66,868 hectares.

    The City of Oxford is 17.6 square miles (Wikipedia), which is around 4,500 hectares.

    We could build another three Oxfords (which would be rather fun; we could misdirect the Yankee tourists), and still have 80% of its green belt left.

  8. “But why this insistence that it should be publicly built housing, housing built only to rent?”
    Err, because the left want to increase the number of people dependant on the state? Just a guess.

  9. “But instead campaigners, bureaucrats and a few vested interests are stopping them from using their property as they wish.”

    So the needs of the few (house builders and prospective buyers) should outweigh those of the many (people who don’t want to live in a built up area)?

  10. “But funnily enough, few of the people campaigning against house building live in tower blocks.”

    Well, no. They live in nice houses uin the country and they want to continue to do so without someone putting up a damned great tower block next door.

    Yes, you’re right, it’s ‘NIMBY’ism, but that’s human nature.

  11. Richard. There’s a slight flaw in your argument which is that it isn’t only Oxford that would expand, Bicester, Banbury and most other places would too so the area of open countryside gradually diminishes. This may not be so much of a problem in areas like the south midlands but in places that are already densely populated and or constrained by geography it is. I agree though that there’s certainly plenty of opportunity to build sensibly in many places with a mix of housing of different densities and plenty of gardens and open spaces . Some parts of the countryside would benefit from that, if you’re interested in conserving wildlife gardens and parks with patches of scrub and woodland are better than some wheat prairie. However the fear is that given this country’s terrible record with urban development and planning in the last sixty years or so the last thing we’d get is decent housing in pleasant surroundings.

  12. JuliaM,

    So the needs of the few (house builders and prospective buyers) should outweigh those of the many (people who don’t want to live in a built up area)?

    Yes, because it’s their land, not yours. If you don’t want it built on then you can buy it.

  13. JuliaM,

    It’s not ‘their land’ if it’s green belt. Or rather, it is, so long as they don’t plan to build on it…

    And based on the law as it’s stands, that’s an entirely accurate statement. We’re arguing whether that law should be as it is.

    People who don’t want something built in the next field are just like lobbying businesses that try to stop competition. “We paid good money for the rights to patent X and think it’s jolly unfair that someone innovated to create patent Y that’s going to put us out of business”. Never mind that the public benefit from that innovation, we have to put the needs of the existing incumbents first.

  14. Or more high rises could be built. After all many people quite like living in Manhattan. Even people like authors, who could move elsewhere.

  15. Julia M – when did “having a building to live in” become a need of a few? Particularly in a climate like the UK’s? I don’t think that people should be banned from permanently camping, but it does strike me as a minority taste (says she who has camped in the snow with no buildings nearby).

  16. “Julia M – when did “having a building to live in” become a need of a few? “

    Well, as Tim’s always pointing out, the birth rate drops for the educated middle classes. So they are, comparatively, few.

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