Owen on housing

Neoliberalism is a con, a fraud, and Britain’s housing crisis vividly illustrates why. The populist promise of neoliberalism has always been about extending choice for the individual. In a properly functioning society – which sadly we do not have – young Britons would be able to choose between a comfortable council house on a secure tenancy, a privately rented home with an affordable rent and security, and home ownership. All of these options have been trashed.

Hmm, as a fully paid up neoliberal I know what I propose to deal with that.

The Tories built this system of endemic insecurity,

Well, no, they didn’t.

The post-war Labour government committed to building council housing to a higher standard than private housing: that pledge must be revived. Local authority-backed mortgages should be promoted on a mass scale; and both stamp duty and an unjust council tax system should both be abolished in favour of a progressive land value tax.

In the private sector, Labour is right to commit to an inflation cap on rent rises and three-year tenancies: but local authorities should be granted the power to impose rent controls, too. Homes which are left empty should face compulsory purchase orders, and then be transformed into council housing. Companies and trusts that aren’t based in Britain should be banned from buying up homes, too.

That’s not what I would do, no.

What I would do is blow up the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and successors. You know, the Labour law which causes the problem in the first place?

38 thoughts on “Owen on housing”

  1. The comment from LostInThis about the ‘demand’ side of the housing crisis has (so far) gone unanswered. Dovetails with the question of why the NHS is under pressure and a lack of school places.

    The idiot politicians have been increasing the population without a corresponding increase in tax take to pay for the expansion. That’s what happens when you encourage low (or no) wage immigration.

  2. I remember the days when LVT was the loony idea of the “far right” neoliberal conspiracy according to just about everyone on the Left. I don’t have to remember that far back either.

    I personally like the idea as I occupy very little land, but any party proposing it should just shoot itself in the head instead; it will be quicker.

  3. Matthew Parris demolished the ‘lack of supply’ side of it in the Times the other day with a long, rambling and incomprehensible story about umbrellas. The price of housing has nothing to do with supply, you see.

  4. I’m starting to wonder if Owen’s articles are computer generated. Just mix up far right, neo liberal, austerity, Tories, elite, inequality etc randomly, smooth the grammar and bingo.

    Is Owen a bot?

  5. So Much For Subtlety

    The post-war Labour government committed to building council housing to a higher standard than private housing: that pledge must be revived.

    Yes but it was a pledge. They didn’t actually do it. After all, how many people want to live in former council housing compared to those that want to live in Georgian houses built by the private sector?

    The last year before the government took over, private industry built over 100,000 houses in the UK. Has the government ever come close to that? Not that I know of.

  6. Who decides which of us qualify as a ‘social tenant’, the fortunate recipients of subsidised housing. I know it suited Bob Crow but very few thought that fair. Buy-to-let has screwed the market. Give tenants in privately rented accommodation the right to buy, and if the tenants are subsequently evicted and the property is left empty, fine the owners or compulsory purchase.

  7. If people can get off a plane and get given free housing, there will never be enough. Btw I know people who did this in Islington.

  8. Young Owen seems to have missed the cheap credit driven housing boom that was a hallmark of the New Labour years. Like the liberals in the US, they are rapidly forgetting their side was in power for many years and did nothing about these problems allegedly caused by the other side, even as they got very much worse.

  9. Mr Yan, what has the government income been in last decade or so?
    Dropping? Or increasing?

    £562 billion in 2008 and £730 billion in 2017. That to me looks like an increase.

    So good news, your fears that government has not increased its income to deal with increase in costs appears to be groundless.

  10. “Buy-to-let has screwed the market.”
    Buy-to-let resulted in increased supply of rental accommodation.

    “Give tenants in privately rented accommodation the right to buy…”
    This will result in drastically reduced supply of rented accommodation.

    “…if the tenants are subsequently evicted and the property is left empty, fine the owners or compulsory purchase.”
    Fuck. Off.

  11. allthegoodnamesaretaken

    “Give tenants in privately rented accommodation the right to buy…”

    I’ll be dumping them onto the street faster than you can say ‘seizing private property’

  12. Most of my mates own buy-to-let, some a dozen or more – multiple units in nice areas of London. How much fuckin money do you need? There’s only so much you can eat, so many bottles of wine you can drink.

  13. “Local authority-backed mortgages should be promoted on a mass scale;”

    What could possibly go wrong?

  14. @ Martin

    Thanks for explaining how the tax take has increased. Here’s another one for you:

    Between 2007–08 and 2015–16, the share of the adult population who pay income tax dropped from 65.7% to 56.2%

    Perhaps you can show how this contradicts my comment on importing low (or no) wage immigrants?

    Perhaps a loss of 9% of people paying tax doesn’t mean there is less money to spend on the NHS and schools?

  15. Martin,
    Taking your figures and, adjusting for inflation on a fag packet, I get about an 8% increase in govt income over the period. At The same time we’ve had about the same amount of population growth. Said growth is due in part to an aging population living longer (with all the increased demand on the state that brings), and in part to immigration (with all the structural pressures that brings)

    So government has not increased its income sufficiently to cover the increased demand.I think Mr Yan’s point still stands.

  16. Bernie G. Sanders?

    Your mates buy properties, most likely improve them (it’s da lawz and da regz of da rentalz) and rent them out to willing recipients. They most likely invest the profits to do it again, rather than gorge themselves.

    Maybe they don’t spend enough on food and wine for you. This would explain why you hate your mates.

  17. Mr Yan, how does the percentage paying income tax affect government increasing tax take? You were concerned about government income which according to the figures released did increase. Whether some particular immigrant or native paid tax or not does not change the total income increased.
    I am a native, I don’t pay income tax. The doctor I saw recently is from Portugal, he will pay quite a bit of income tax.

    How does increasing government income lead to a drop in government income?

  18. PJF, what he said was.

    The idiot politicians have been increasing the population without a corresponding increase in tax take to pay for the expansion. That’s what happens when you encourage low (or no) wage immigration.

    And you agree with me that government increased tax take to pay for the expansion.
    Even by your back of the fag packet.

  19. Neoliberalism or Classical liberalism.

    I wonder if there is a difference and what they mean.

    I have known a blogger call himself a classical liberal.

    is this what the Liberal Demorcrats are all about?…oh fuck it who cares, the sun is out and the dog wants a walk and its ladies football today at the park.

    sweaty women with large thighs covered in mud….you can’t beat it.

    Dog hates me standing there watching it.

  20. “the share of the adult population who pay income tax dropped from 65.7% to 56.2%”.

    How long, I wonder, before less than half adults pay any income tax at all.

    Jacking up (other people’s) tax rates to pay for things has never been so popular.

  21. @ Martin

    The important part of what I wrote is “without a corresponding increase in tax take to pay for the expansion” not just an increase, but enough of an increase to pay for the expansion in use of public services.

    If we get a load of immigration and those people use the ‘welfare’ state disproportionately in relation to the tax they contribute, then we end up in the situation where we have a crisis in the public services.

    You can blame the elderly if you like but they don’t drive the need for more housing and school places.

    So the increase in government income *is* a drop in so far as we needed even more tax to keep up with demand. However, the people coming into the country are not providing that.

  22. Top 10 countries of birth for immigrants to the UK in 2015:

    Poland 9.5%
    India 9.0%
    Pakistan 5.9%
    Ireland 4.5%
    Germany 3.3%
    Romania 2.6%
    Nigeria 2.3%
    Bangladesh 2.3%
    South Africa 2.2%
    Italy 2.1%

    Not surprisingly, the highest claims for state welfare were from the EU A10 countries (Poland & Romania), Pakistan & Bangladesh and Africa (Nigeria):


    Hence the problem – people coming in and making disproportionate use of the public services and not contributing enough (tax) back to UK society.

    We need more Indian’s and non-A10 EU and less of the rest.

  23. While housing demand via immigration is open-ended (as currently constituted) whereas supply of housing is unavoidably limited at some level, the supply/demand situation is going to lead to a tendency to higher prices. You can’t fix it with peripheral measures or enthusiastic panaceas which don’t address demand. Why are we importing poor people at the expense of our own, of whom we seem to have enough.

  24. “In a properly functioning society…young Britons would be able to choose” between anything and anything else, without cost considerations. Otherwise neoliberalism has failed.

    I give up! Yes, do it the Bernie Sanders way: Everyone on welfare.

    Until you blow up the Town and Country Planning Act, no one can state whether a free country would deliver the goods.

  25. Yawn, another lefty ploy for their only real aim – more power.

    First create problems, namely housing shortages, while grabbing power under the guise of helping the little people, in this case insane “planning” laws.

    Then create even more problems, namely housing destruction, while grabbing more power, still under the guise of helping the little people, by more insane laws, property seizure and / or rent control, to fix the first problems.

    And all the while blame someone else for the problems. Tories, Jews, Poles, Canada Geese, Muslims, old people hogging too many rooms, it hardly matters.

    Oh, and especially recruit young people, because they are inexperienced and stupid.

  26. Bernie G. WTF?

    As a small business owner (not in the UK) buy to let is my pension plan. No one else is going to do it. I buy run down properties at a discount, fix them up and rent them. My capital and labor go into them to make them habitable. I only buy properties that I would be willing to live in, so that if disaster strikes (Bernie, Corbyn, et. al.) I have somewhere to fall back on.

  27. MG WTF. I know, I know… my mates say much the same. But there’s another generation of kids out there trying to fashion a life for themselves, and we’re not helping – competing for the same resources.

  28. “Buy-to-let has screwed the market.”

    The percentage of those renting from private landlords is about the same as it was in 1971. Hugely less than it was in the 1950s. More than it was in the 1990s.

    There is a tendency to look at how things are today, look back to find some halcyon point in times gone by and then claim that today is the worst of all times ever, with no hope of improvement.

  29. @ SMFS
    Under Attlee in the 40s and the first few years of the Churchill givernment in the 50s, the public sector commissioned the building of over 100,000 houses per year (though most public sector houses were built by private sector companies, at least in the 50s). That was because Attlee had used wartime controls to make it virtually impossible for any private sector developer to build a house. In the 50s and 60s, Wimpey used to build roughly equal numbers of private sector and public sector dwellings.

    OTOH, nesarly all the prefabs that Attlee’s government built have been pulled down and replaced, many of them in the 1950s and we keep seeing pictures of the Tower blocks built under Wilson being demolished because they cannot be made fit to meet modern standards. Very rarely does one hear of a twentieth century private sector house being pulled down becasuse it is unfit.
    So your point about the *actual* quality of council housing under Labour is valid. In the early 60s councils adopted the “Parker-Morris standards” which meant that new council housing was, briefly of better quality than private sector dwellings built for working class and less affluent members of the middle-class: after Labour came to power they soon gave it up because they couldn’t afford it..

  30. Bernie G., please, the scarce resource less available to the next generation of kids is buildable land and that scarcity is 100% caused by the government.

    Every level of government has restricted the supply of land on which people can build. The state has imposed subdivision, development and building rules that only large corporations have the time and money to deal with, if it can be done at all, which it often cannot. The state has also simply taken land out of circulation fully with idiotic and unused green areas, historical sites, height restrictions and similar nonsense. And don’t tell me that the very few nature lovers who actually use green areas constitutes proper usage of those huge lands, or that you actually care about ‘historical’ sites if you won’t pay for them.

    All of those things together, and they alone, are the cause of the UK housing shortage.

    Places with fewer building restrictions have higher vacancy rates and lower rents. Houston Texas et al.

  31. Mr Yan, if we replace immigration with the word unemployed and disabled then yes you could be right about resources used.
    How you going to deal with the unemployed? How you going to deal with the disabled?

  32. Martin, when did we get the ability to choose between demand coming from immigration and from unemployed/disabled? Immigration is additional demand to the other two, which we can try to reduce but not eliminate. Some people need cheap or public housing. We should reduce the numbers of those people where we can. But immigration at any level of wealth or poverty has a magnified effect on prices. Those economist chaps who hang around here have a term for it, marginal thingy of whatsit.

  33. @ Martin

    Now it all makes sense – the comment about not paying tax and now the (false) comparison between immigration and the unemployed and disabled.

    That’s you isn’t it? You don’t pay tax because you are unemployed. Probably with some fake illness (such as ME) and you’ve been told you are well enough for work. Easy money has been taken from you.

    You don’t make a useful contribution to society so feel obliged to wreck the system that is keeping you from staving to death.

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