The Brexit Solution – Abolish The Town And Country Planning Act 1947

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
John Harris

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.

Simples.

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.

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Spike
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Spike

Don’t some voters see Brexit as a question about the utility of being in the EU? Would giving them free stuff (by prohibiting commerce in which they can’t participate) really make them apolitical? Adopt Harris’s housing policy and there are no other issues on the table at all? (But yes, do blow up the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and you’ll get more affordable housing for everyone.)

Patrick
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Patrick

True – unless the purchasers are overseas investors and not de-bufooning anywhere in the UK. I’m somewhat reluctant to suggest we limit the rights of non-Brits to buy British property, but this is a bit of an issue. Maybe we should require 10x the Council Tax bill for properties unoccupied for over 6 months or summat.

Lincoln
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Lincoln

Presumably those foreign buyers do so because they want the houses for some reason – for personal use or as an investment, to let out and / or appreciate in value. If you stopped throttling the supply of houses then housing as pure investment would be knackered. No price rises, no capital appreciation, duff investment. Thus the way to stop foreign buyers snapping up UK properties is to stop those properties consistently appreciating in value. That could be done by removing the supply restriction. i.e. bin the planning rules. You could also achieve similar results by reducing demand, say by… Read more »

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

Surely Council Tax is for services rendered? If one goes away abroad to work, for instance for a year, one is not using so many services, wouldn’t then a discount be more equitable?

jgh
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jgh

Nope, Council Tax is not for services rendered, it is a property tax, it has no connection to any services provided, just as income tax has no connection to services provided. You’re thinking of MacDonalds’.

Spike
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Spike

Patrick, whatever you propose will have the effect of discouraging foreign investment – which, like domestic investment in housing, does not stay in housing but frees up capital to go where it’s needed. Discouraging capital to come onto the island won’t help anyone. To discourage unoccupied (underused) properties is to remove some of the value from real estate. That won’t help anyone either. Around this part of the US, I am amazed to see the large number of self-storage complexes springing up. Doesn’t suit me but it obviously suits the customers, and the investors who have studied it and expect… Read more »

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

It seems that Guardian writers not only misunderstand supply and demand but are also are unable to see elephants. In this case the Elephantidae of net migration, currently running at 226,000 p.a.

That is not to say that planning laws are not in need of reform, they most certainly are.