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So, err, build some more?

The government is facing a fresh confrontation with the House of Lords amid new warnings that its housing policies will deprive rural communities of affordable homes and make them the “exclusive preserve of the affluent”.

With many peers already uneasy about the effects of extending right-to-buy to housing associations, leading peers are now raising concerns about the impact of the policies on country areas where low-cost properties to buy or rent are in short supply.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE)demanded that country areas be exempted from the latest right-to-buy plans. “Rural areas already face a shortage of affordable homes and an ever-growing gap between wages and house prices,” said Luke Burroughs, the campaign’s policy adviser.

“As homes bought under the right-to-buy scheme are inevitably resold on the open market at prices way beyond the reach of those they were built for, families and young workers face the prospect of being forced out. The government has attempted to allay fears by arguing that restrictions are in place and that each home sold under the scheme will be replaced. Yet these restrictions do not at all prevent the sale of affordable housing in rural areas, and replacements are not guaranteed to be built in the local area.

In fact, if there’s a shortage of affordable housing in these areas, whoever owns it, the answer is still to build some more. Because that’s the correct response to a shortage: increase the supply.

No, this doesn’t mean concreting over this green and pleasant land. I would absolutely guarantee that you could increase the amount of housing in any and every English village, townlet and hamlet by 10% and after 5 years no one would be any the wiser. There is always a little pocket of underused land around. Simply because we don’t in fact plough, live upon nor forest every corner of this admittedly green and pleasant land.

Stop whining about it and just get on with it.

32 thoughts on “So, err, build some more?”

  1. As much as I agree with you Tim I cannot see things changing. Property has become a religious investment. The religious mantra is that it always goes up in value. People who are on the property ladder by and large are the ones who always oppose the building of new houses near where they live as they do not want the value of their property to be affected in any way.

    I have a friend who lives out in the countryside in a house worth about half a million. He insists that this country does not need any new houses to be built. The ‘real’ problem is that the country has too many people and that we should only have about 40 million people (this number was calculated by the UK, though I have never been able to trackeep down the original report ).

    He believes that America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand will quite happily take our surplus population as they ‘Always need people’.

    I have tried to explain that this is an idiotic policy that would result in the UK economy tanking and people pensions becoming worthless but he just brushes off such concerns stating that ‘if the government manages the situation and the economy properly then it would be alright’.

    When I pointed out that most of the ‘surplus’ 25 million people are British and could always return, I was told that the solution is simple. Just change their UK citizenship so that they have a special type that means they would not have residency rights.

    The truth is that my friends is pretty normal and rational on almost all other matters. However he is a complete fruitcake when it comes to the population of the country ry and it is really just a disguise for the concern that he has for the value of his property.

  2. Ironically wouldn’t the value of his property tank if there were fewer potential buyers and the economy had crashed?

    “Rural areas already face a shortage of affordable homes.”

    A shortage of homes is entirely in line with the CPRE’s aims an interests. Hypocritical bastards.

  3. The entities that could increase supply are either unable to (local authorities because of rules about borrowing and what can be done with right-to-buy receipts) or don’t want to (property owners and people who want support from property owners, housing associations under the Damocles sword of the extension of right-to-buy).

  4. There’s two issues at play here:

    1: Physical supply of houses

    The planning restrictions that are stifling house building all over the country are even worse in rural areas, thanks to bodies like CPRE (or worse, national bloody parks) wanting to stifle any kind of housing or economic development projects in rural areas. Many rural areas haven’t seen any significant house building since the council houses went up in the 1960s.

    2: Ownership/tennancy

    The big problem with stopping “right to buy” is that many council/Housing Assoc. tenants are on lifetime tenancies. OK, the house is available for rent if the original tenant moves out, however many council houses don’t change hands for decades in rural areas.

    As for the locals buying a house, the restricted supply of houses pushes up prices in “attractive” areas, and they (on low wages) have to compete with retirees buying for cash or BTL holiday cottagers.

  5. National parks are bad. I met someone who lived in North Yorkshire in the national park. She wanted to have a conservatory added to her house and was told that since the house was in the national park they could only have the conservatory if it was built of Yorkshire stone.

  6. I agree about National Parks. I had an online row with the CPRE recently where they claimed they were our most precious landscapes and gave a figure for the number of tourism jobs the parks and ‘their environs’ generated.
    I pointed out they had to include these environs as that was where development was permitted and there were things to do. And then pointed out their number represented less than 3% of tourism jobs for 9% of the land area.

    Curiously the CPRE has a video out from the 1930s mentioning they successfully campaigned against afforestation in a Lake District valley. Bleak is beautiful for these guys. The moon is available most nights if it’s just about having a bleak view to stare at.

  7. “National parks are bad. I met someone who lived in North Yorkshire in the national park. She wanted to have a conservatory added to her house and was told that since the house was in the national park they could only have the conservatory if it was built of Yorkshire stone.”

    The problem with National Parks is that they’re a dumping ground for SJWs and their Daily Mail equivalent, the CCs(“conservation” cronies).

    Want a pantload of cash for a “wildlife reserve”? Go right ahead.

    Want planning permission for a workshop so you can expand your small local business? Not a chance.

    Want planning permission for an “engagement centre” twice as large and four times as ugly as a workshop? Go right ahead.

    It’s quite telling that Snowdonia National Park’s headquarters building is in fact outside of the national park

  8. Right-to-buy-from-LAs isn’t a problem in principle, it’s the detail of it. IIRC:
    Local authorities have to give 30%(?) of right-to-buy receipts to the Treasury. LAs are not permitted to spend the remainder on building new properties before paying off debts. They are not permitted to borrow to build. They are compelled to sell at a discount.

    If LAs could build we’d see more builds.

    If there weren’t a brick shortage.

  9. @ukliberty

    The solution is the build more bricks, which is going to happen. The brick manufacturers mothballed their kilns in the recession and just need to get them restarted.

    Another solution would be to relax the planning laws so that builders had greater freedom to use alternative building materials.

  10. No one wants, anything in their physical environment to change. There is always an excuse if you give enough “benefits” to the right planning officer. Back in ancient history, Southampton FC were planning to move their stadium to a site on the outskirts of the city, near where some rich people lived. The application was rejected on the grounds of poor transport links. The site was adjacent to two motorways, an intercity rail station and Southampton airport.

  11. There are a lot of people who don’t think we need more homes which is hard to understand. In London of course we need to stop paying lazy people – pro single parents etc to live there. By pro single parent I mean people who decide to be a single parent instead of working and they do exist

  12. Rhyds said:
    “The big problem with stopping “right to buy” is that many council/Housing Assoc. tenants are on lifetime tenancies. OK, the house is available for rent if the original tenant moves out, however many council houses don’t change hands for decades in rural areas.”

    Indeed. This is why the “right to buy” will have very little impact on the availability of social housing, as it is being sold to the people who are in there already, on lifetime tenancies. That house isn’t suddenly becoming unavailable for new tenants, because it wasn’t available for new tenants anyway.

    Even selling at a discount to market value makes sense, because their protected rent is below market value – you’re just capitalising the future discount.

    The housing associations then get a big dollop of cash to build new homes; the existing tenants stay housed (and get to own their own place) and people waiting for housing get new ones. That new house will be built years before the old house would have become available to new tenants.

    What’s not to like?

    Yes, there are arguments about the details (the purchase discount should better reflect the rental discount; and I’m not sure about the economic wisdom of giving the same big purchase discount to the elderly whose lifetime tenancy might not last much longer), but the principle is sound.

    The problem, as others have said, is that given our expanding population, not enough planning permissions are given to build new homes.

  13. Actually I have some sympathy with Salamander’s friend’s idea of a lower population.

    Yes, GDP would be a lot lower, but would GDP per head (which is what matters to people) be much lower? Yes at a certain point a lower population (or density) causes a significant fall in GDP per head, but I suspect we can drop a fair bit before that becomes a problem.

    And yes, house prices would plummet, but I see that as a benefit, not a problem.

    The problem is there’s no reasonable way of getting there from where we are. Might have been different had our governments followed the German system of temporary right to work but making it very difficult to get citizenship, but they didn’t.

    And then there’s the difficult question of which people we don’t want – didn’t Douglas Adams have a solution to that?

  14. I wonder how I’d explain this “problem” in France. The little rural village I’m connected with has had quite a few houses built, the last few years. They’d like more. They might get their own boulangerie again.

  15. How about a deal – in return for government investment in broadband, etc which they demand, a minimum number of new housing must be built in the area.

  16. In my home town of 15,000 there were recently 150 houses built on a field that has been designated as housing land for decades. The only objection I have with it is that the design is utterly naff (thank god it’s hidden on the edge of town), and it is built and marketed as a “luxury” development – pricing out of the reach of the very people who need it, and they’re being snapped up as holiday homes.

    A quick look at the council planning map shows there’s enough brown sites within the town limits for several hundred more properties without spilling out into the surrounding national park.

  17. Aah, but these ex-industrial sites, or brownfield sites are usually the places where kids have fun, and nature takes over if they are undeveloped.
    As well as being hard-standing areas for vehicles when the gypsies or the music festival is town ( your locale may vary ).
    Unlike the land inside the national park boundary which cost us money in farm and diesel subsidies, where hardly anyone has fun, and nature is excluded.

  18. As pointed out, the current dearth of houses, and the trend towards ever more tightly packed “shoeboxes”, is pretty much entirely down to planning policy over the last few decades. ALL governments of all colours have to share the blame for this.

    But it was interesting watching that documentary series on TV a year or two ago that followed the work of the planning departments and inspectors. One incident i particularly recall was a planning inspector assigned to a proposed new greenfield development being harangued by a local resident incenced that they were going to lose their views, it would spoil the nature of the village, and all the usual arguments.
    Of course, the objector might have had some moral grounds for their beliefs if it weren’t for the fact that they were living in a “newish” house that would have been built not that long ago as a new development just like the one they were objecting to !

    For many, there’s a “I’ve made it, lets pull up the ladder to keep the ‘wrong’ sort out” – particularly prevalent in the Lake District which is near where I live.

  19. Oh, nearly forgot …
    And said pressures are more or less directly responsible to destroying the character of most small towns like the one I live in. Pretty well all business properties have gone.

    Typically, whoever owns it carries on until they want to retire – and then they find that they can “cash in” if they get residential planning permission. It’s hard to criticise the individuals – why should they pass up an opportunity to realise a valuable asset ?
    It’s the policy which puts such demand (and hence raises the value) for residential development sites that’s at fault.

  20. @Richard

    The problem is that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to pick and choose which people move abroad and which don’t.

    Forcing the population down might result in the young moving abroad and the pensioners staying. This would exacerbate the aging population and drive GDP per capita down.

    Really you would need to try and encourage people to retire abroad and eventually die abroad. The only way we could make this work would be to increase the state pension for those who would choose to retire abroad. Potentially we would have to provide additional support for the health care costs in the target country.

  21. Salamander,

    Your mates idea of shipping millions to Aussie & NZ is somewhat complicated by the fact both countries have exactly the same problems with housing supply as the UK. It’s not the physical limit, but rather a self imposed one by the cult of planners.

  22. “The problem is that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to pick and choose which people move abroad and which don’t.”

    Muslims? Corbynistas?

  23. In East Anglia, carefully controlled development is welcomed, even in the Suffolk Coast AONB. You’ll get planning permission for your factory if it’s clad/screened appropriately. And even the most beautiful historic villages have infill and modern housing discreetly sited. The gem that is Bury St Edmunds has a huge suburb sited across the A14, Moreton Hall.

    I lived in the Peak District NP for some years. Yes, development was restricted, but not unreasonably so, and the amenity and economic value of the landscape was preserved for visitors and residents, present and future.

  24. Glorious as it would be to whip Owen Jones and acolytes into a column and drive them aboard the cross channel ferry I doubt the French would let the fleet land.

  25. @Tim Worstall
    Just pop them on an armoured train through the channel tunnel . Isn’t that what was done to Lenin?

  26. “I doubt the French would let the fleet land”

    Could the Frogs object with free movement and all?

    As for Mohammed al-Semtex and family, send them back to their third world shit hole. And the Corbynistas can all be sent to Cuba, Russia and Venezuela. Mr Ecks to be project manager.

  27. I seem to recall Mr Reagan struggling with the same problem in California. His advisors said that the problem was complex. He replied that no the problem was simple- but not easy.
    It’s amazing the lengths of complexity people will go to to avoid difficulty- lazy people take the most pains.

  28. Not only do we have NIMBYism, but we also suffer from BANANAism : Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone…

  29. Salamander got it right to start with- then the usual suspects went in for a lot of fascist ranting about deporting Corbynistas .
    The problem is that far too much newly created money goes into residential land which leads to land banking and existing houses inflating in value.(Remember you Homeownerist chant everybody: wage increases bad; house price increases absolutely marvellous.Or as the Daily Mail would have it, surpassing its 1930’s glories of “Hurrah for the Blackshirts”,’If we get average house prices up to £Im we’ll all be millionaires- without doing any work like the nasty sweaties and jumped-up sweaties in suits who are far too interested in straight sex and drinking ‘.
    The solution is some kind of land value tax which holds land prices steady ,eliminating it as much as the Tory swine eliminated wage inflation . LVT dates from the late eighteenth century when the modern economy started to emerge so we can be absolutely sure that modern politicians and economists haven’t caught up with it yet.
    But Corbyn ,McDonnell and Andy Burnham are up to speed on it, though the old Fares Fair system in London by which Dave Wetzel meant eventually to provide free public transport from LVT based local taxation has a lot to recommend it now because it allows a strategic dispersal of population away from high land-value areas like London and other scenes of criminally dysfunctional economic policy.

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