John Harris tells us that the cause of Brexit, the reason for the proles’ unhappiness at the ruling class, is the lack of housing. The answer to Brexit is, therefore, to blow up the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and successors.
This isn’t, quite obviouly, what Harris means but it is the solution to the problem he identifies.
The housing crisis is at the heart of our national nervous breakdown
If we built the houses we needed, the anxieties and fears that motivated the Brexit vote would at last recede
Harris is writing in The Guardian so of course he doesn’t understand how markets work:
If you hear the phrase “new housing”, what comes to mind? In our big cities, it will probably be high-end, supposedly “luxury” apartments, marketed via a dream of glamour and ease, and usually devoid of any realistically affordable element. A perfect case in point is Manchester, where the city council talks up its plans for new housing in “affordability zones”, but controversy about the arrival of opulent residential developments in the city centre is reaching a peak. Last week, one of the leading architects involved baldly claimed that “there aren’t enough expensive homes in the city”; most Mancunians I speak to think the opposite is true.
Woven into the spectacle of four-bedroom flats in Manchester selling for £3.5m and apartments being snapped up by investors in Hong Kong are companies that symbolise the inequalities of the modern city. A good example is Moda Living, which oversees £1bn of property assets from an HQ in Belgravia in London. In central Manchester, its Angel Gardens development will apparently start filling up with tenants next month. A flat there comes with access to personal trainers, flexible workspaces, a “rooftop sports court”, “residents’ sky lounge”, and credit with Uber. Studio flats start at £1,050 a month; three-bedroom apartments at £2,050. For people at the upper range of the income scale, these may look like modest outlays, but for most of the people who live and work in and around the city, they are clearly out of bounds.
Well, yes. But if richer people move into these expensive places then the places they move out of become available for not so rich people. It being important to note something about the housing market.
Most of us live in second hand housing.
Just as the vast majority of the car market is second hand cars. It is not necessary to bemoan rich people buying new Bentleys. Give it 30 years and they’re £10k anyway. Further, some rich bloke spending £300 k on a new car doesn’t change the manner in which he buying one of those frees up, in a cascade down the price levels, a £400 Skoda for a poor person to nurse into action.
So it is with houses. Some rich buffoon paying £3.5 million for a flat in Manchester – buffoon for who in hell would pay that much to live in Manchester? – means that there’s another dwelling somewhere now buffoon free. And so on down the housing price levels until that back to back terrace in Harpurhey is now available at an entirely affordable rent. Or for sale at £1 which might be what a place in Harpurhey is worth.
But beyond that, what is actually the problem with the British housing market? That people are not able to build houses that people want to live in where people want to live. Because they can’t get planning permission to do that. Thus the solution is obvious and simple. Stop banning people from building houses people want to live in where people want to live.
Thus the solution to Brexit is to blow up the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and successors.
Of course, we should be doing that Brexit or no just as we should be doing Brexit housing problems or no but those are other matters.