But we can ask ourselves the following questions:
First: how much space are people entitled to live in? The market sets no limits; even such formal rules as they still exist (they are being weakened) are flouted by the young salariat.
Second: what is the optimal balance between the private, social and state-owned rented housing and the owner-occupied sector? This cannot be hard to fathom since many cities in the 1980s and early 1990s achieved housing markets that “cleared” in economic terms: in Leicester in the 1980s I had no problem finding a secure private tenancy; no problem getting the council to hound my landlord to maintain it properly; very little problem moving from there to a housing association flat; very little problem transferring, as a key worker, from there to a council flat in London. Yes, London.
Third, what do we mean by “affordable”– when it comes to either rents or prices on state-specified newbuild homes? Under both Labour, Coalition and the Conservatives the concept of affordability has become delinked from incomes and attached to a percentage of the market rate. The same state that decided nobody should be repossessed during the 2008-11 housing slump could decide that nobody has to pay more than a fixed percentage of their incomes on housing costs.
If you’re going to discuss house prices in the UK, as Paul Mason does, then you really do need to ask the one important question. Why in buggery don’t we just issue more planning chitties? That’s not even the elephant in the room, it is the room.
Note that Mason entirely fails to even mention this.