A classic example of political logic today when we’re told that England needs 3 million more social housing units by 2040. This is not true, not true at all – although it might be true that England needs 3 million more housing units. The reason this is political logic is that they’re indulging in that classic progression, something must be done, this is something, so we must do this. When expressed in that manner we can all see what is wrong with the logical chain there. Even if it is true that something must be done it doesn’t therefore follow that this something is the correct thing to be doing.
With housing it’s really very simple indeed. Yes, housing is too expensive for some goodly portion of the population. Or at least reasonable accommodation in places people wish to live is. So, accepting that, we can indeed say that we therefore desire more decent housing in places people wish to live. This tells us nothing at all about whether that should be social housing of course but that’s the leap of faith being made:
England needs 3m new social homes by 2040, says cross-party report
Well, yes, cross-party. The soft left wing of the Tories agreeing with the soft left wing of Labour might cross party lines but it’s more of the usual frenzy of agreement among the social managerialists than a true crossing of ideological boundaries.
England must launch the biggest council and social house building drive in its history to rescue millions of people from a future in dangerous, overcrowded or unsuitable homes, a cross-party commission has told the government. More than 3m new social homes are needed in the next 20 years, more than were built in the two decades after the end of the second world war, according to a year-long housing commission launched in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster. Its commissioners include the former Conservative party chair, Sayeeda Warsi, the former Labour leader Ed Miliband and the former Conservative Treasury minister and Goldman Sachs chief economist Lord Jim O’Neill. The call represents a direct challenge to Tory ministers to dramatically increase social house building from its current level of just over 6,000 homes a year. The number of new homes proposed is equivalent to seven times more houses than there are are in Birmingham and 27 times more than in Milton Keynes.
So, accept that we want to have more houses so as to bring the price of housing down. What’s the best way of achieving this? It may well not be to get local councils to build millions more houses. We did try that solution and it didn’t seem to work all that well – we produced ghettos of those reliant upon the local council in fact. Great if you’re the person buying those votes, less good if you’re paying for them or suffering that housing.
There is another solution, simply relax the rules on who may build houses where and we’ll have more housing. Supply up and price goes down. Just the process of having more houses will make all housing more affordable. Yes, this is true even if only 3 million mansions are built. Those who move into them will be moving out of something else which increases supply – and reduces costs – for those lower down the income scale. And there’s nothing odd about living in a second hand house now, is there?
So, let’s blow up the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and successors. For that is what prevents people from building nice houses where people would actually like to live. That will reduce house prices for all houses and our problem is solved. Those still on cripplingly low incomes can get housing benefit to aid them until they’re back on their feet.
It’s possible to insist that this won’t work because reasons. Except we do have direct empirical evidence that it does. For the last time the private housebuilding sector produced 300,000 houses a year – enough to give us that 3 million by 2040 and then some – was in the 1930s. When there was, broadly speaking, no national planning of housing. The astute will note this was before the 1947 act too. So, blow up the 1947 Act and return to those halcyon days of housebuilding where people want to live, in houses people want to live in. After all, those houses that were built then are those very semi-d’s in all those ribbon developments in the green belt that people pay £1 million and up for today.
That being the very reason for the passing of the Town and Country Planning Act of course, to stop people just living as and where they wished. Can’t have that in a properly managed Britain now, can we?