NEF’s Idiot Plans To Solve The Housing Problem

There’s a reason why New Economics Foundation stands for Not Economics Frankly. That reason on display here with the plan for reforming the housing market.

New figures released on Wednesday confirmed what we already knew: homeownership is becoming increasingly out of reach for young people. A survey by Santander found 70% of 18- to 34-year-olds now believe that homeownership is over for their generation. Our housing system has been allowed to degenerate to such an extent that secure and affordable housing is increasingly unavailable to working-class people, and in many places middle-class people too. But it’s not for a lack of ideas that this has happened. What we are lacking is the political will.

No doubt they’ll get Leni Riefenstahl into film it all too.

The idiocy starting here:

Fifty years ago the country had a fairly stable housing system. The need for secure, affordable housing of the middle class was largely met through homeownership, and that of the working class through widely available social housing. But a reliance on the private market to deliver homes since the 1980s, and the loss of millions of social homes over recent decades, has destroyed this system. In the 1980s, after moving to a new town, my parents left their council house and bought a home. They were able to do this because the historic link between house prices and local incomes – between three and four times average annual income – was still intact. For my generation, both sides of this move are almost unfathomable. Social housing for young people without children? Homeownership in your 20s? Impossible.

It’s that claim that there ever was social housing for the young without children. Nope.

And there never will be either. Because, by definition, social housing is at below market prices. This means – people aren’t stupid – that lots and lots of people would like to have social housing. There always will be a queue that is. If there’s a queue then there has to be a selection method. And it’s going to be the young and childless who are selected against in any selection method.

Just ask anyone who was around back then. Someone young and childless had absolutely no chance whatsoever of council or social housing. This won’t ever change either for the reason above.

Well, it might change for one reason. Which would be that social housing is at market prices. Then the desperate incentive to leap aboard the gravy train disappears. But then if social housing is at market prices then there’s no point in having social housing, is there?

The old private rented sector, created in 1988, was designed primarily to attract investment, and was among the most unaffordable and insecure in Europe. But since its overhaul in 2019, bringing the sector in line with many European norms with the introduction of open-ended “lifetime” tenancies and rent controls, standards have significantly increased.

The lifetime tenancies and rent controls being what destroyed the private rental market from WWI through to the 1980s of course. Why the hell anyone wants to bring back failed policies is – well, just proof again that there’s no one so conservative as a progressive.

In 2019, this might sound utopian. But with sufficient political will, it’s eminently achievable.

Sure, political will has been responsible for most of the glorious fuckups of the past century. Quite why we’d want to do it all again is another question of course.

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BarksintheCountryliterate3Rhoda KlappDavidsbJonathan Harston Recent comment authors
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Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

I remember (not directly) in the 1930s the Housing Officer would visit you at your old home to vet you before allowing you to sign up to a council house. People would lend each other their furniture and get everything out of the pawn shop to demonstrate their good standing.

Davidsb
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Davidsb

Housing scarcity/affordability is a function of (a) demand versus supply, and (b) the balance between owning houses in which to live versus owning houses to let out.

A bit of control over population growth would re-set the demand issue, and reduction in Government (i.e. taxpayers) funding through elimination of housing benefit would make owning houses to rent out less attractive. Both measures combined would make home ownership more affordable.

The answer is NOT to increase the supply of houses (least of all by concreting over the Green Belt) without tackling the other two issues.

literate3
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literate3

“The old private rented sector created in 1988” – more like 988 BC: the Romans used to rent houses. Rent controls were introduced by Lloyd George as a temporary wartime measure – they should have been abolished in 1920 after enough men had been demobbed to enable housebuilding to respond to demand but the problems were tolerable until the 1940s inflation pushed maintenance costs above net rental income for most rent-controlled houses/flats, so good landlords actually lost money and their losses were not allowable against tax on their other income. NEF want a return to the conditions that created the… Read more »

BarksintheCountry
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BarksintheCountry

Government policies making housing construction difficult, possible yes, but very difficult might have something to do with the shortage.

Rhoda Klapp
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Rhoda Klapp

Are those people on the street? If they are not, what’s the problem? Everyone has a roof over their heads. If they aren’t where they want, or at the price they want to pay, well, nor is mine.

And on no account mention the I word.

AND, why is a council monopoly on local housing supply a good thing whereas private landlords competing to get the best rents and the best tenants is not?