A coalition of the complacent

7 January 2013

2:21 PM

7 January 2013

2:21 PM

I don’t like to think that I am rich. In theory, I know that in comparison to the vast majority of the world’s population, I am. But perhaps because of my politics, or perhaps because of journalists’ perennial pretence that we are tribunes of the people, I cannot see myself as wealthy, and would protest if others said that was just what I was.

And in everyday dealings with others, I don’t feel as if I’m rich. I don’t have a car. My wife and I watch what we spend at the shops. I wish I could wine and dine every night, but, alas, I cannot.

So I go on thinking that I am an ordinary member of the British middle class, until I start talking to people who are 25 years younger than me. I have learned to be careful about what I say. A couple of times, I’ve been chatting to a friend who is settling down with a partner, and I’ve said without thinking that obviously they would be buying their first flat. They look at me much as an African peasant looks at a western tourist. I am a creature from another world. I am something they think they can never be: an owner occupier; a member of the rapidly diminishing – and rapidly aging – band of property owners, which no longer has to worry about where they will live. Whenever I have shot my mouth off, my speech has degenerated into embarrassed stuttering. I feel vulgar and cruel; as if I have been deliberately rubbing the noses of propertyless into the misfortune of being born at the wrong time.

Ross Clark has just published one of the best political pamphlets I have read recently – A Broom Cupboard of One’s Own (you can download it here for £2.37 ) He emphasises how unprecedented today’s market is by pointing to the supposedly depression-afflicted 1930s. For all the suffering, a lower-middle class couple who had eight shillings a week to spare could buy a home; perhaps one of the new semis in Heathway Park estate in Mitcham.

It’s the type of place the discerning still sniff at. But its typical 1930s’ houses were solidly built homes with three bedrooms, a garage more often than not, and a bit of lawn at the back. You could have a couple of kids, eat round a table, do some gardening, and have a nicer life than most people cooped up in our over-priced and under-spaced modern rabbit hutches enjoy. “Guaranteed modern houses, brick built throughout,” the sales pitch for Heathway Park went. Yours for prices ranging from £315 to £530.


That would be from £18,000 to £30,000 at today’s prices. Except that the young can’t buy at “today’s prices”. A typical 1930s’ semi in Mitcham now costs about £330,000.

As interesting as Clark’s argument that we have constructed an economy that guarantees high prices are his proposals to ensure that people, particularly the young, have somewhere decent and affordable to live. Clark is a small “c” conservative. (He may also be a large “C” Conservative for all I know.) He writes for the Tory press and the Spectator. He is hardly a red revolutionary, in other words. Yet try to imagine this coalition implementing any of his recommendations, and you will see the vertiginous gulf between the needs of the country and the complacency of our leaders.

Clark wants new housing development agencies to have the power to use compulsory purchase orders to buy land at current prices (rather than the vastly inflated price land with planning permission to build attracts). Nothing particularly radical about this idea. The developers of the 20th century new towns bought agricultural land at cost.

Restrictive covenants should guarantee that only owner-occupiers can live in the majority of new homes, he continues. Covenants would drive down prices by stopping the buy-to-let landlords, who have inflated the market, moving in. Again this is hardly a radical measure. Mansion blocks in London say you cannot rent out your property. Meanwhile in a final attempt to make housing affordable, Clark suggests stopping Whitehall piling ever more environmental requirements on new homes, which push up the price of what ought to be cheap property at the bottom end of the market.

Away from owner occupation, he wants tenants to have the option of staying in a rented property for three years to give them some security of tenure, and an end to the destructive policy of council house sales, which forces the taxpayer to pump housing benefit into the pockets of undeserving private landlords.

You may disagree with some of the above. But my point is you cannot imagine the coalition implementing any of the above. We are in a housing crisis that extends from the homeless on the street well into the middle class. We have couples deciding not to have children because they do not have the space to house them. We have people paying extortionate rents, and the lowest rate of new home construction in almost a century. Yet ministers just sit there like gouty old men in the 19th hole – belching out the odd protest about nimbyism, flogging off more council homes or proposing a ludicrous scheme to subsidise mortgages, which will only push up house prices further. One might have thought that Tories in particular would have wanted to get people into homes. The housing booms of the 1980s, 1950s and indeed the 1930s sustained them in power. I assume too that the grown up children of the poorer members of the cabinet must be telling their fathers what a racket housing has become. But perhaps they’re not, because nothing ever happens

After interviewing David Cameron, Matthew d’Ancona wrote on Sunday that the prime minister wanted a second term because he was a man of destiny

It is clear that the personal has become absolutely grafted on to the strategic. If Cameron has experienced an epiphany, it is that his mission is not simply to clear up Labour’s mess but to prepare Britain for what he calls “the global race” – and that this will take the country, and him, many years to accomplish. A pragmatist by temperament, he has succumbed to the radicalism required by the times.

This is simply not true. Housing is a great issue of our time, and it has produced no radicalism from Cameron. The longer his government goes on the more it looks like the second Wilson administration (or the second Baldwin administration, if you want to stay in the 1930s). A government that filled the papers with political news while it was in power, but which no one missed or even remembered when it was gone, because it failed to tackle the urgent problems of its age.

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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Good view.

  • FrankS

    House prices rise to absorb the amount of money available to buy them. Thanks to profligate lending, they have therefore risen to artificial highs.

    Prices must therefore fall . This will be achieved by high(per) inflation.
    Thanx, banx!

  • FergalOregan

    Better than . . . Confederacy of Dunces

  • FrenchNewsonlin

    Err housing is the perhaps the second greatest issue but surely cleaning up the appalling mess — and rising misery — left by the banker-fomented global economic war of mid-2007 remains the priority? It would seem the ‘chaps’ and their EU colleagues are failing there too.

  • kieran

    I recently went to a job interview only to be pipped at the
    post by another candidate. The job paid £1100 a month. The successful candidate
    spent £900 a month on his rent which left £200 a month to feed himself and pay
    for transport to the place of work; this
    is Britain, of course, so there is an under-provision of decent public transport.

    Sick isn’t it but a fairly typical story. The free market
    which is supposed to provide decent jobs and homes for all doesn’t work. And the
    “free market”, as we all know, is largely rigged by developers who sit on land
    banks and keep properties empty in order to create shortages and thus raise prices.

    Another issue the government does not understand is good
    urban design. I see a poster above suggested:

    “we should focus on
    building up in cities e.g. converting two storey terraces into four storey

    It is all very well raise the crucial issue of density, in
    fact, the truth is that density has to reach a certain critical mass before
    anything like a town or city emerges. But we need to focus on the worst
    examples of low-density as sites for remedial design and build. Converting a
    two storey house into a four storey house immediately raises the issue: who has
    ownership of the garden behind because every house owner wants their own
    private green space. And if these buildings are viewed as apartment buildings,
    not vertically extended houses then there are important implications for the
    design and provision of public space as opposed to private gardens.

    The worst form of low-density architectural design is
    probably out-of-town shopping centres. They rip the heart out of communities. They are basically
    horizontally over-extended bungalows designed
    with one criteria in mind: the provision of large, single surface car parks. Indeed,
    this is an issue which again relates to public space. Instead of a beautiful
    square or elegant street we get a car park, something which looks like crap. And
    the need for this car park is generated by one thing: the non-existent
    provision of public transport in Britain.

    Instead, as a model of what a neighbourhood could be, we
    could look to the Garden City Movement. A good example of this would be
    Hampstead Garden Suburb which featured on my blog Genius Loci. (Hope Nick will
    allow the link:

    This example of the Garden City Movement is based around the
    provision of a tube station something
    which obviates the need for large car parks. Another crucial idea is the way in
    which the shops are within a walkable distance. They are not single-storey
    monstrosities but have flats placed over them. If our current messy sprawling
    suburbs were redesigned and rebuilt along these lines then that would be the
    ideal retrofit.

    The idea of buying land at agricultural prices is nothing
    new. It originated with Ebenezer Howard, something even our dim-witted deputy prime minister
    might appreciate.

    A proper understanding of strategy could build new homes AND
    preserve the Green Belt.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Excellent. Now, if only people in the coalition would read it and act upon it.

  • Daniel Maris

    The only way to address this problem is to withdraw from the refugee treaties, bring in strict controls on immigration (e.g. banning arranged marriages to foreigners), remove welfare incentives to large families and immigration, and withdraw from the EU so we can get control of our borders.

    Then, I would suggest some real ways of tackling the problem would be a positive two child maximum policy and land reclamation as practised by the Dutch. Also, we should focus on building up in cities e.g. converting two storey terraces into four storey terraces.

  • monsieur_charlie

    I always wanted a Bentley Continental. But as I can’t afford it I think that someone else should be forced to pay for it from their old age pension and benefits.

  • monty61

    One of the best bits of comment on here in a long time.

  • The_UK_is_a_corporatocracy

    It’s even worse than Cameron not tackling the urgent issue of housing. He is tackling it but in a way to make it worse for most people. Osborne is giving tax breaks to REITs so they can buy up masses of houses to rent out. The Tories are systematically engineering it so that less people can afford to buy and must pay rent to corporations.

    What a proper socialist government (not New Tory Labour) would do is instigate a 75% Capital Gains Tax on the sale of second homes or homes currently rented out but for one year only the tax is reduced to 25%. This would force sales and return the homes to owner occupiers, instead of them being used as a commodity.

    Also interest rates must rise to help the poor. The wealthy have their friends in the media do scare stories about how poor people would not be able to pay their mortgages if interest rates were to rise. Low interest rates push up the value of assets. The wealthy own the assets so are better off if we have low interest rates and their assets increase in value. This means poorer people have to borrow more to buy one.

  • Amanda Craig

    Good piece. I have also had this kind of experience talking to young professional couples in their twenties, who can’t afford a shoe-box sized starter home.
    I’d suggest two things, one of which is swift and easy: make second homes pay the full rate of council tax. Or even a bit more, given that those who have them can afford it.
    Secondly, force property developers to release their land banks by taxing them.

    • Daniel Maris

      The land bank business is a bit of a myth as I understand it.

  • Teacher

    The whole housing shortage problem is so complex that it would take a whole book to explain how we got from middle class, middle earners being able to buy pleasant, modest houses to the present position of middle class, young graduates not being able to afford a flat in Southern England or London. Here, though, are some (undeveloped) factors in the current situation:-

    – not all young people used to be able to buy houses or flats. it is a myth that EVERYONE bought their own home and 100% home ownership now is a pipe dream

    -when my husband and I bought our first house in 1989 we moved to an extremely cheap area of the country, Cambridgeshire, and bought a detached house for £16,500 on a mortgage of just under £15,000 having saved £800 odd and borrowed £1,000 from his parents – a loan we paid off over a year. We went without any luxuries (clothes, holidays, breaks, new car etc.) and lived like beggars to fund the house. Scrimping for a first property was the norm for older people

    -I have seen from my own children and younger work colleagues that young people are unprepared to forgo a lifestyle-subscription (holidays, mini-breaks, restaurant and coffee shop meals, clothes, designer handbags, fashion, i-poddery & technology, cars and travel, concerts & festivals, sport, gym membership etc.) to save to obtain a deposit, much less pay a mortgage

    -there are vast land banks of building land currently held by developers who are refusing to build on them until prices rise.These could be built on now and prices lowered

    -the north/south price divide is severe. Many youngsters could afford a place in the north were they prepared to move. Public sector workers earn the same wherever they live

    -the population has risen in a swift and uncontrollable way. It was thought that single workers would enter the country, pay taxes and leave. They have not. They have married, had children and have added to the number of people who want to be able to buy houses

    -much of the inability to buy houses depends more on the lack of mortgage funding than on the lack of housing

    -anyone who travels around this country knows it cannot be true that houses are not being built. My observation is that new houses are being built everywhere. Someone must be buying them

    -older people cannot afford to lower their selling prices as their house is often their only asset and their rock against disaster. Pensions, investments and savings have been decimated by banks, insurers and government. QE is destroying the financial independence of many.

    There are other local and particular factors which I haven’t mentioned. What the solution is I don’t know. I have a son and a daughter who will want to leave home eventually but neither of them can afford a mortgage on their own. I wonder whether the old solution of necessity being the mother of invention will come into play. I have a feeling that joining forces with a second mortgage payer, hard work, saving, a bit of help, prudence and patience will pay off.

    • Bernard McCarty

      Inflation adjusting your 1989 figures using the BoE inflation calculator (which gives values up to 2011 but will suffice):

      £16,500 is about £33,682
      £15,000 is about £30,620
      £800 is about £1633
      £1000 is about £2041

      Meanwhile a detached house in Cambridgeshire is, what… £200k – £300k?
      … are you beginning to see the problem yet?

      Do you seriously think people can’t buy a house is because of the “holidays, mini-breaks, restaurant and coffee shop meals, clothes, designer handbags, fashion, i-poddery & technology, cars and travel, concerts & festivals, sport, gym membership etc.”?

      If a house in Cambridge cost only £33,682 your children could probably still do all of the above with the knock on benefit of the money being spent into the wider economy.

      • Teacher

        No, I don’t seriously think a young person can buy a house if they give up lattes. I started my piece by saying the whole property problem is complex and has many factors. It’s not quite so clear cut as some might think if they are judging just by their emotions and not looking at how circumstances have changed.

        The interesting thing is, Mr McCarty, that I have just looked up my first house on ‘Mouseprice’ but it does not show up on their register. An equivalent house in the same street on their register, however, is very near your estimate priced at £200,000.

        Nevertheless, there are other factors involved. When I bought my first house I earned £3000 a year, a bit less than a fifth of the purchase price. When I finished my career I was on about £45,000 and five times that amount is £225,000. So that’s actually pretty even.

        You forgot to factor in wage rises in your calculations. Couple that with the fact that I was paying 14% interest and that the building society would only lend two and a half times my husband’s and my own earnings when couples today can be loaned many times the multiple of their joint salaries and you will see that it was not so easy then to buy a house and it is not so out of reach now.

        How many young people wanting a house would be prepared to move 200 miles to two new jobs to buy a house as we did and pay 14% interest rates? I’m not sure my own children and their friends are quite so prepared as we were to make sacrifices.

      • Daniel Maris

        Quite the main issue is mass immigration.

    • Daniel Maris

      The housing shortage is explained completely by mass immigration which has resulted in huge population growth. The proof is that where there hasn’t been mass immigration eg parts of the North e.g. Liverpool, there is no housing shortage.

  • WilliamOne

    The sole aim of every government policy and initiative regarding housing since the crash has been to prop up the house price bubble by any means necessary. Every time they announce a new part rent/part buy scheme like shared equity and Firstbuy Direct or they bring back 95% LTV mortgages underwritten by the Taxpayer Backed Mortgage Guarantee you need to ask yourself how many people are being helped and who these people are?
    The numerous ‘helping first time buyers onto the ladder’ schemes run to over £9billion and the 95% LTV guarantee is an unquantifiable black hole that could cost us anything. But here is the thing. We are all paying for them.
    Millions of people who will never be able to afford any kind of shelter be it rented or bought are bankrolling these schemes designed to keep the price of housing forever out of their reach.
    My question is, just how aware is the average sofa surfer, family living in a one bedroom flat or person stuck sleeping in their childhood bedroom well into their middle age that this is the case?
    Most people are now subsidising home ownership for people who earn far higher wages than they ever will. That is now the sum total of housing policy in Britain, yet the average person will be blissfully unaware that they are being priced onto the streets by their own taxes.
    It won’t become an issue unless people become aware of how rigged housing has become and how loaded against them the ‘market’ now is and they start to resent it.
    This whole aspect of the housing ‘market’ is studiously ignored by both the politicians and the media yet it’s only going to get worse, and much quicker than most realise.
    Maybe there will be an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ moment when people suddenly see the government housing policy for what it is, but it won’t be a politician or anyone from the mainstream media pointing the finger.
    People are going to have to figure it out on their own.

  • Owen_Morgan

    Here we go: Cohen misses the elephant, yet again. What is the cause of over-population in south-east England, actually? Are we really reproducing at such a rapid rate, or is the rise in population the result of external causes, which Nick Cohen is too politically correct to mention?

    • Daniel Maris

      Yep, why poke the elephant in the room?

  • Tim

    Thanks Nick Cohen for an enjoyably very well written piece.
    One can only fear as governments, petrified of the consequences of house price falls on the reckless loans of banks, impotent to raise interest rates, watching idly by as new families aren’t created – then bang! Folk will retire without ever having owned a house and turn to the state for payment of their rent.

    I believe that fixating on housebuilding as the only solution to the housing issues is missing a viable, acceptable and quickly implemented remedy.

    The roll-out of a Berlin/German style of rent and tenure control would release a lot of property for purchase from inadequate landlords whilst addressing the exploitative rent level issue – This is a quick fix.

    It is a proven system in Germany. Unlike us in the UK, they have a viable option to outright purchase whilst their landlords have a quite proper long-term responsibility that reflects their pivotal role in the community,

    In the UK, purchase is the ONLY method of securing adequate housing for families, work commitments and schooling.

    Renting is NOT merely a European cultural difference. It is a pragmatic option given proper tenure and rent control.

    • lmda

      I have often wondered how the German landlords are persuaded to go on being landlords if tenancies are so protected and rents held artificially low.

      I was once, briefly, a member of the wicked landlord-class having let our one bed-roomed flat in Shepherd’s Bush when we had to return to France for professional reasons in the 92/93 recession. House prices were falling, interest rates were high and rental agents’ fees extortionate and the tax on ‘unearned’ income quite high enough thank you. The cleaners employed by the agency would remove any small items of furniture not nailed to the floor and would stand on the radiators to clean the windows, damaging the walls.The tenants would variously : ring me up in France to say that they had broken the loo seat and ask what was I going to do about it ; paint the flat in West Ham’s colours (it had been freshly painted in re-lettable magnolia just before) ; leave me an old television set in lieu of a month’s rent. Being considered a pivotal member of the community seems inadequate compensation to me. Perhaps the German landlords would advise me «Only let to Germans ».

      • racyrich

        Most of the German landlords are in fact banks who’ve owned the properties for ages. They’re quite happy to tick along making a steady, longterm profit.

        • lmda

          Well, in the UK, insurance companies were the biggest landowners in the country but any steady profit they made was on commercial property (and an unsteady massive profit was made by selling this off at the “right” time). Residential holdings were tiny – a low fixed rent privilege to be handed out to employees. Our banks, on the other hand, have recently acquired by re-possession a vast portfolio of houses in parts of the country where few solvent and employed
          people wish to move.

          It’s all a mess but I am under no illusion that a good political plan and the smack of firm government couldn’t make it a whole lot worse.

  • pigou_a

    Excellent article.

    However, I’m not entirely persuaded by Clark’s remedies.

    The average price and affordability of homes is determined by supply and demand for housing.

    How will compulsory purchase orders increase the supply of homes? Tim Leunig’s community land auctions would be much more sensible. Allow local authorities to hold reverse auctions (start at zero £s per acre and go up) to buy land without planning permission (the auction ensures the price will be neither too high nor too low), and then allow the LA to grant wide ranging permission for developments with few restrictions and auction the land back to developers. The money from these auctions returns to the community to keep council taxes or business rates down and provide services.

    Similarly Clark’s arguments about restricting tenure of owner occupiers are misplaced. Individual buy-to-let landlords and property developers profit from increasing the supply of homes. If they are allowed to increase the supply of homes, prices are likely to fall, homes will become more affordable. Thus counter-intuitively buy-to-let landlords and property developers are on the side of the young and those who do not own their homes.

    It’s worth noting the Coalition has been aiming to increase the supply of homes (their economic policy pinned its hopes on a private sector investment boom). A decent portion of the local government cuts over which Councillors have been fretting could have been offset if local government had allowed more housing developments through the new homes bonus (funding ~£1.5bn compared to local government grants of around £28bn.) However local government appears to be playing a game of chicken with the DCLG, and refusing to allow more homes to be built, preferring to cut other services.

    Until it’s widely understood that the shortage of homes is due to lobbying of local government by an incredibly selfish, irrational and vocal older minority, exemplified by the CPRE and the National Trust, it seems unlikely that the housing shortage will be resolved.

    A truly radical government would have liberalized land use policy and got rid of deeply regressive and archaic policies such as the greenbelt, and introduced a land value tax as recommended by the Mirrlees review. But alas it was not to be.

    At the next election, it will be interesting to see if any of our politicians have worked out that affordable housing is not a statement about the characteristics of homes being built, but rather the quantity of homes supplied. I have low expectations.

    • Owen_Morgan

      People like you would applaud anything. Please explain why the population is rising and, extrapolating from that, whence comes the pressure for new housing.

  • racyrich

    The economics of housing completely baffles me.
    If, say, bank lending was regulated to 1960s levels, so mortgages of 3-4 times one person’s earnings, with average wages nowadays at £25k that’s still only £100k. That doesn’t even cover the building cost of a modest house, let alone the land.
    So, given that was the extent of available credit 40 years ago, how were houses built? Has building houses become that much more expensive, even though just about everything else has reduced in price since then, and we apparently have a much larger and cheaper pool of labour now too? The houses built then weren’t exactly Jerry-built. In fact they’re much better built than those of the 80s and 90s.
    The only conclusion I can reach is we’re being ripped off at every turn.As usual.

    • pigou_a

      Increase the supply of land with planning permission for development, scrap the green belt.

      Tim Leunig:

      “The value of agricultural land is typically £15,000 or less a hectare, whereas residential land is worth £4m a hectare in a high demand spot such as Oxford.”

      Land with planning permission is worth 250 times as much as farm land.

      So if each house requires 0.04 of a hectare, planning regulations add £160,000 to the cost of a house.

      The UK is not short of farmland, it only costs £15k a hectare. The UK is very short of land for building houses, you can tell because it costs £4m a hectare.

      The economics are simple, it’s the politics which is hard. Lots of old people who own their homes have nothing better to do than to lobby their local Councillors to prevent homes being built for their children and grandchildren.

      The real sick part is that older home owners do not benefit in any meaningful way from high house prices, it’s not like they want to move anytime soon. I guess they just like to brag to their neighbours about “how much their home is worth”.

      • racyrich

        Yes yes, I know about the land price problem. My point is that even if the land were free the building cost alone would make the house borderline unaffordable to half the population. That shouldn’t happen. It didn’t use to be the case, and advances in materials and technology should have reduced the price.

        BTW, builders are sitting on over 800,000 houses worth of landbank. They have no intention of building on them until prices rise back to 2007 levels, as to do so would depress prices and thus their profits. As the original article said, there is too much vested interest in keeping prices high.

    • edlancey

      “The houses built then weren’t exactly Jerry-built.”

      I think they were Jerry-built, which is why they are still standing…

  • Youbian

    The government is looking at the symptoms not the cause. There is a shortage of housing and housing prices have risen in London partly because rich foreigners are buying property and not living in it. For example there was a programme the other day about rich Arab boys who come over here for three months every year to show off their cars. They don’t live in their homes here for the rest of the year. While those houses lie empty, the workers in London are forced further and further out with train fares rising. Time to restrict foreign buying of houses here? Of course it is good to get as much foreign money as possible in these straightened times but it doesn’t do us any good if we can’t afford homes in our own country. Then there is the immigration issue. So Dave, are you ever going to do anything or are you so isolated with your rich friends that it doesn’t affect you?

    Meanwhile, I have been a Conservatice voter my whole life. I am disgusted at Cameron’s slagging off of UKIP voters – most of my Tory friends vote UKIP now. Cameron’s vile slurs are not the way to win them back.

  • disqus_nrVLSIAy3D

    House prices are unrealisticly high, but secure too much debt for BofE to allow them to fall… But when they finally turn off QE all bets are off.

  • andagain

    One might have thought that Tories in particular would have wanted to get people into homes. The housing booms of the 1980s, 1950s and indeed the 1930s sustained them in power. I assume too that the grown up children of the poorer members of the cabinet must be telling their fathers what a racket housing has become.

    Ideologically, of course, they should be in favour of deregulating the planning system, and making it easier to build houses.

    On the other hand, high house prices cost young people with families who need a larger house, and benefit older people who own a large house and are moving to somewhere smaller. Such as the core supporters and members of the Conservative Party. So this is not a deregulation they are likely to implement quickly.

    As for Labour – probably the last thing they want is for people to own their own homes. What they want is people on state subsidised rents. Not that the government has much money for that any more…

  • Whyshouldihavetoregister

    >Clark wants new housing development agencies to have the power to use compulsory purchase orders to buy land at current prices (rather than the vastly inflated price land with planning permission to build attracts).

    Yeah, that’s a good idea: increase the tyrannical power of the state, rather than make planning permission a lot cheaper and easier to get.

  • Nick Cohen

    Thanks Hexton

  • Boo80

    The problem is that sorting out the defecit is a great issue of our time,

    and so is sorting out our education system,

    oh and sorting out long term unemployment is a great issue of our time,

    and dealing with destruction of our pensions by the babyboom.

    Oh and resolving our relationship with europ is a great issue of our time,

    Making the NHS affordable when it takes more and more money just to stand still is also a great issue of our time.

    Look the point is the coalition is doing one or two things in the area of planning reform, but you can hardly call them complacent, when they are facing so many problems

    “A government that filled the papers with political news while it was in
    power, but which no one missed or even remembered when it was gone,
    because it failed to tackle the urgent problems of its age.”
    Perhaps this discription would be better suited to the jokers that handed over this pile of sick to coalition

  • hexton

    Difficult to see that restrictive* covenants on newly-built properties – a small percentage of the whole housing stock – would help with prices. With plenty of potential owner-occupier purchasers on hand, who had been (or thought themselves) crowded out of buying older properties by buy-to-let landlords, the prices of the newly-built properties would soon match those of the older houising stock.

    It seems to me essential to encourage the prices of the relatively cheap properties to remain as low as feasible for the area. Firmly restricting the size of extensions that may be built, perhaps, to ensure that small houses remain small. Not that that would help to reduce the already-ludicrous prices of small houses and flats in some places, but it should at least stop a significant proportion of them being pushed up to the ‘family-home’ category (and price).

    * Note: ‘restrictive’ not ‘restricted’. You might like to amend Para 8, Mr Cohen

  • Trofim

    And these people you speak to who can’t afford a house? Are they homeless? No? So what’s the problem? Extended families are good for social cohesion. By the way, am I correct in thinking that the population of the UK increased by 3.7 million people between 2001 and 2011, or was it just a bad dream I was having? In any case, it couldn’t possibly have any influence on anything to do with housing could it.
    You cannot ever build enough accommodation for a constantly increasing population. A population policy is what this country, and the world, needs, albeit very late in the day.

  • lmda

    Politicians don’t address this problem because, I suspect, they don’t know where to begin. Does anyone have a plan that will address the housing shortage and not make vast numbers of people furious and/or miserable?

    People buy property, when that possibility is open to them, as somewhere to live but also, when property prices are rising, as protection against inflation and other government ways of obtaining their hard-earned cash. It is difficult to see any state attempt to stop them doing this as anything other than sinister. Governments and economists might prefer them to invest in industry but this is risky and the investments would have to pay for rent, taxes and inflation(and you can’t grow roses round a share certificate). So ideally everybody has to be their own financial wizard and live somewhere where rental accommodation is easily available. People used to say that Germany was like this and that was why their industries were so much better than ours and household debt so much lower. I live in rural NW France where, compared to the South of England, property is much cheaper (though prices have increased very rapidly in the last 15/20 years), there is more space, building land is on the whole much cheaper and planning permissions are easier to obtain.However, people here are still at a loss to help their children find somewhere to live while studying or looking for employment, the towns being much more expensive. As Hollande is raising taxes on rental incomes, fewer properties will be available to rent and prices will rise. In the short term at least, this seems unlikely to help.

  • Chris M

    Yeah, and what a shame Labour didn’t continue with their great radical housing agenda. What’s that you say? They presided over one of the biggest housing bubbles of our lifetime and bust a few banks at the same time? Oh..

    To be fair to any politician, reducing house prices is electoral suicide. A young person who won’t vote or donate anyway isn’t worth much compared to an older person who will vote and stands to lose many thousands. Tackle that if you dare…