On liberalism and NIMBYism

 

I was delighted to see Tim Farron taking on housing as a personal campaigning priority. In order to do this effectively, though, he will sooner or later need to take on a culture of expedient NIMBYism in his own party.

Local campaigns against new development are often highly effective in garnering media attention and engaging people who might join or support the party. At times, they are also the right thing to do for an area. At other times, however, they can be opportunistic and exaggerated: in a recent example I came across, a local party deliberately misinterpreted a proposal in a non-party, think-tank style report on the housing crisis for a concrete, Conservative plan to pave over a large swathe of the district. Local campaigns which proudly ‘see off’ developers may leave a legacy of usable sites remaining derelict for years, and seek to spin this as some sort of victory over vested interests, when in fact it is anything but.

This kind of tactical NIMBYism is not only cynical but also profoundly illiberal. The voices of the ‘have nots’ are drowned out by those of the ‘haves’, who need neither the homes nor the jobs arising from new development and for whom increased housing supply may mean capital losses. Sometimes developers ‘win’ on a particular issue and sometimes residents’ associations do, but either way the victory benefits the establishment – and that’s something which Lib Dems should be seriously concerned about.

As well as relative wealth, the ‘haves’ may also have the time and inclination to understand and write the rules which govern our planning system. By confining debate to whether a proposed development conforms to the rules – rather than considering its own merits and value – other voices and views are excluded. (This works both ways: we all know of developments that scrape past the letter of the rules but do little to improve an area). A particularly damaging example of this rigid, calcified approach is the fetishisation of the green belt, despite its regressive and environmentally damaging effects, and the deliberate but inaccurate conflation of ‘green belt’ with ‘green space’, which maintains public ignorance rather than empowering people to engage in constructive debate.

Our party’s strength lies in our values-driven, evidence-based and innovative approach, which leads us to take on these kinds of sacred cows. A great example is our consistent championing of land value taxation and betterment capture to shake up the nation’s outdated and inequitable model of land and property rights, which rewards rent-seeking behaviours while keeping many in relative poverty.

If we’re serious about solutions to the housing crisis, we need to build on this boldness, and let people know about it. Make it explicit that the garden cities we advocate will need to be on the green belt, and explain why this isn’t a terrible thing. Show how, through grown-up planning laws, those likely to lose out from nearby development could negotiate with the ‘winners’ on a level playing field for compensation and improvements, rather than simply opposing change at all costs. Develop new ways, such as through a system of tradeable development rights, to empower non-landowners to influence local development. And see NIMBYism for what it is: not a weapon of community politics, but a barrier to a free, fair and open society.

* Max Parish is a pseudonym for a policy professional and Lib Dem member who is in a politically restricted post.

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57 Comments

  • Important to note that green space near people is much more important than high intensity agricultural land much further away, yet the current system prioritises building on gardens over “green belt.”

  • Well said. Back when I was a supporter, rather than a member, in Hertfordshire, I used to get very irritated by the nature of the campaign material from the local party. “Hands off Herts!” was the slogan. To me this suggested trying to scupper all significant development in the county, rather than trying to ensure development was appropriate. I knew I supported a party campaigning nationally for more housing, and yet my locally party seemed to be saying “Yes, but not here”. I used to call the campaign “Hands of Herts – Build on Beds!”, as for me that was the logic of their position.

  • Well said Max! I agree with every word.

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Aug '15 - 11:05am

    I’m a bit of a supporter of Nimbyism. At the end of the day supporting Mass development and mass immigration is a losing ticket and people want politicians to do something about it.

    I also think talk about rent seeking for land owners is pseudo scientific. Labourers seek to rent out their Labour too. People seem to champion a Land Value Tax as if a 0.1% or a 99% tax would be good. There is hardly any talk about how much this tax should be.

    Regards

  • Eddie

    “People seem to champion a Land Value Tax as if a 0.1% or a 99% tax would be good. There is hardly any talk about how much this tax should be.”

    Most people say they would support a LVT not any LVT. There is discussion to be had about how and at what rate, but the underlying idea is sound. Incidentally a 99% LVT would raise nothing as the value of land would just plummet. As with all taxation there will be a response to it, in the case of a LVT you are likely to see a fall in land values equivalent to a negative perpetuity, so simple assumptions need to be avoided.

  • Richard Church 12th Aug '15 - 11:34am

    Eddie, Immigration and development are not linked in the way you suggest.

    The prime reason why we need more housing is that household sizes are getting smaller. It’s a trend that’s been continuing for over 100 years now, just go and look at the censuses in the 19th century to see how many people used to live in a house which we would now think suitable of only 3 or 4. People are living longer, and more people like me are living alone. Immigrants to this country tend to live in larger often overcrowded households. They are not the cause of the housing crisis.

  • Jayne Mansfield 12th Aug '15 - 11:43am

    Why isn’t LVT it being promoted more loudly? It just doesn’t seem to be given a high enough profile despite it’s popularity amongst those who are aware of it.

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Aug '15 - 11:43am

    Thanks Richard and Psi. Just quickly: I would never suggest that immigrants are the cause of the housing crisis – I just think if people hear the party championing immigration and development with no nuance then the public and I will not look favourably on it.

  • Little Jackie Paper 12th Aug '15 - 11:52am

    I have no problem with any of this as such. However it is not enough to simply oppose NIMBY in and of itself. Bring me development that is not executive luxury houses for the multi-propertied wealthy. Bring me development that won’t just got hoovered up by the landlord classes. Bring me real development that gets young, low-paid people into owner-occupied housing.

    Eddie Sammon – ‘I also think talk about rent seeking for land owners is pseudo scientific.’ Tell you what then, you go and live in a BTL and see just how pseudo-scientific you think having half your take-home going straight to the propertied classes feels.

  • tony woodhead 12th Aug '15 - 12:08pm

    I quite agree with the writer about NIMBYs but it would be a very brave candidate who said that they were in favour of new houses in their ward , or constituency .
    The question to ask NIMBYs is where are your children / grandchildren going to live ?
    WE need an extra 150000 houses per year and they cannot all be built in the next town , county etc

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Aug '15 - 12:12pm

    Honestly, I rented three different places in zone two London over a period of two years, so yes Little Jackie Paper, I know what it is like to spend a lot of your income on rent.

  • Kavya Kaushik 12th Aug '15 - 12:17pm

    rekt m8

  • Paul Kennedy 12th Aug '15 - 12:18pm

    As a democrat and former advocate I would staunchly defend the rights of local people to challenge decisions to dump whatever in their back yard. That’s what local democracy is all about. It is not about insisting that we dump in somebody else’s back yard – which tends to be the Conservative approach.

    Good examples of the Lib Dem approach versus the Tory approach in action have been:

    a) Guildford Borough Council where the Tories needless to say have a huge majority,and there is a currently a battle between the Tories in East Guildford who want to build in the West of the Borough, while the Tories in West Guildford want to build in the East of the Borough (including in my constituency). The Tories in West Guildford are currently running the show. Only the Lib Dem opposition are coming up with sensible suggestions for a local plan.

    b) Heathrow-Gatwick. Again the Tories in Heathrow want to expand Gatwick, while the Tories in Surrey and Sussex want to expand Heathrow. The Lib Dems have the principled position of opposing both on environmental, infrastructure and economic (North-South rebalancing) grounds.

  • Glenn Andrews 12th Aug '15 - 12:26pm

    Nimbyism tends (though not exclusively) to be the preserve of home-owners; countering their objections would be far easier if a substantial majority of new housing went to those who cannot afford to buy them. A good start to our focus on housing would be for the few Liberal Democrat authorities we have to be far outstripping their Labour and Tory counterparts in providing new Council Housing…. and that means taking on the nimbys in favour of the housing disenfranchised ( a growing constituency in all boroughs)

  • Jackie – what makes a house an “executive luxury house”? Its size, its fittings, its location…? Developers also get a lot of flak for building small and bland developments too. There’s always a reason why any development is the wrong development and should be opposed. The net result is an overly restrictive planning system and a culture of NIMBYism.

    As an aspiring first-time buyer, I have no problem with new builds not being in my price range. Only 10% of housing transactions are new builds. Most buyers will consider both new and old and buy the right one for their needs. If executives don’t have new houses to live in, they’ll move into the nicer existing housing stock and push the prices of those houses further out of my reach. Building nice new homes for the top os society to keep existing houses more affordable works for me.

  • Little Jackie Paper 12th Aug '15 - 12:42pm

    Duncan Stott –

    ‘Jackie – what makes a house an “executive luxury house”? Its size, its fittings, its location…?’

    I apply here what could be termed the, ‘pornography test.’ I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.

    ‘Developers also get a lot of flak for building small and bland developments too.’

    As long as they don’t get sucked up by the BTL classes, that flak does not come from me.

    ‘There’s always a reason why any development is the wrong development and should be opposed.’

    Sure – I’m confident we agree on much here. I think the most I can say is that in my view we have a crisis not so much of housing but of tenure. What we have is ever more BTL and foreign speculative money, most notably (but not exclusively) in London. My point is that addressing housing and development is one thing, but it must be seen alongside the crisis of tenure. Getting that past the propertied classes will be no fun.

  • Gwyn Williams 12th Aug '15 - 12:52pm

    In Wales we have the Welsh Spatial Plan. The Planning Inspectorate dictates to the Unitary County Council how many houses must be built. It rejects the Local Development Plan until its arbitrary targets are met. In England you can still have an old fashioned debate within the Council. It makes me feel quite nostalgic.

  • Max Wilkinson 12th Aug '15 - 1:00pm

    Another excellent article by Max Parish.

    It’s regrettable that fields sometimes have to be built upon, but the facts remain that only a small portion of the UK is built up and brownfield sites can’t meet our long-term demand.

    Too often, our party resorts to shouting about brownfield first development or simply opposing all development everywhere as a matter of principle. It’s illiberal and it’s harmful.

    One point I’m pleased the author has pointed out is the deliberate blurring of the lines between all fields on the edges of towns and green belt. There are plenty of attractive fields that are not in the green belt and there’s lots of green belt land that’s pretty plain and ordinary.

    I have very little time for comparing one party’s NIMBYism to another’s NIMBYism, as Paul Kennedy does above. Cynically opposing housing development to garner short-term support is bad, regardless of which party does it. It’s bad for the economy, it’s bad for young people and it’s bad for the long-term health of our party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '15 - 1:00pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    Why isn’t LVT it being promoted more loudly?

    The Little Old Lady in the Big House will always be dragged out weeping, with accusations that you want to throw her out of her house because she has no income to pay the LVT on the land it stands on.

    Next to be put on show will be the Wannabe Entrepreneur. He has good ideas, you see, which will make money for us all if they are implemented due to the growth in the economy they will cause. Only he’s going to stay in bed and do nothing. Why? Because if he puts his ideas into practice and made money, he’d want to buy a big house, and you want to make him pay LVT on the land it stands on. That’s an “attack on aspiration”, “anti-business”, and you will be accused of wanting to do this out of envy of him.

    Then will be the Heir Apparent. This poor person is expecting to inherit a house, and needs it, because he can’t afford to buy one. And you want to deny him that house by making his parents pay LVT on its land, so they get rid of it? Heartless person you are.

    I have been a supporter of LVT since I was young, but believe me, if you try to promote it in the real world, this will be the sort of thing thrown back at you by those who have vested interests.

    Shamefully, our party itself in effect promoted the anti-LVT line when it made replacing council tax by local income tax a prominent part of its policy line, arguing then that the only fair tax was one on income.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '15 - 1:04pm

    Max Wilkinson

    It’s regrettable that fields sometimes have to be built upon, but the facts remain that only a small portion of the UK is built up and brownfield sites can’t meet our long-term demand.

    It’s easy to say this in theory. Rather harder to do it when you have local residents screaming at you “How dare you act against our wishes and destroy our green environment – we’ll never vote for you again”. Been there, done that, when I sat on a Borough Planning Committee and almost every proposed development met with that response. Have you?

  • Max Wilkinson 12th Aug '15 - 1:07pm

    To pick up on another point, public participation is key. However, it needs to take place in an environment where facts are known and people are informed about the local, regional and national picture. We have a duty to inform consult, and oppose where necessary, not lead anti-development campaigns as a first resort.

  • Max Wilkinson 12th Aug '15 - 1:08pm

    Matthew,

    I am a local councillor..

    Max

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Aug '15 - 1:29pm

    If you look at Britain from Google Earth you wil see a lot of it is already grey. Also, when I look for houses there seems to be a lot available. I just don’t see this crisis and someone will have to explain better. I can see prices being a problem, but that is as much to do with the ease that people can get a mortgage as anything else. However I can imagine the outrage if politicians dare touch people’s mortgages.

    Homelessness and poverty are problems, but I don’t see the general housing crisis that people talk about. I’ve had a look, but it still doesn’t hit home.

  • Paul Wilson 12th Aug '15 - 1:34pm

    As a new LibDem member (before GE2015) and long-term housing crisis activist, this is a breath of fresh air. We need to sell the urgency of the crisis more effectively, and expose the ‘pull up the ladder’ nimbyism for what it is – selfish and myopic. The benefits to the economy and social justice of getting this right are enormous, and the current arrangements are illiberal and outdated.

  • Max Wilkinson 12th Aug '15 - 1:59pm

    Eddie,

    Much of the housing crisis hidden in the punishingly high rents young people have to pay just to scrape by. If you’re looking at the homebuyer section of your local newspaper, or simply walking along the road and looking for estate agency boards, you certainly won’t see the crisis.

    I write as a home owner, so I do not have the ‘my rent is high’ axe to grind. I do, however, have the recent experience of being a renter, along with the feelings of hopelessness that go along with paying very large portions of my income on rent.

    I had a discussion on Twitter with an anti-development campaigner yesterday. She argued that young people should ‘save until it hurt’ like she had to. She later admitted that her house cost under £2,000 and was purchased when she had an annual salary of more than £500. Those sorts of house price to earnings ratios just don’t exist anymore.

    Max

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Aug '15 - 2:12pm

    Thanks Max. Very helpful. Although for now I think I will call it a housing problem or shortage rather than crisis. It needs to resonate with the majority.

  • Max Wilkinson 12th Aug '15 - 2:31pm

    You can call it what you like. Finding a way to build the homes we need, rather than half that number, is the important part!

  • There are a few points I would like to make (courtesy of Wikipedia);
    1) The UK population grew by ~12% between 1970 and 2011. So we do in fact need more houses for the population, not just because of the desire for more (inside) space per person
    2) In the 10 years up to 2004, the net birth rate (births minus deaths) was only once above 2%. In the 10 years since 2004 it has only twice been below 3%. Our population is growing at a rapid rate (> 200k p.a) regardless of immigration
    3) Like Eddie Sammon however, I do not see huge numbers of homeless people. The need is more social than essential – many people are not living in the accommodation they want, and most of them are poor people. We do need to do something about this and about the punitive rental market however. More council houses are at the heart of this and would also save so much money in housing benefits currently being paid straight to landlords
    4) Supporting housing developments is however a very high risk strategy for any candidate for election… We should not brush this issue under the carpet. Local people are quite entitled to insist that ONLY housing developments that are accompanied by the necessary developments in the form of schools, transport, doctors and dentists are acceptable. This is rarely the case.. There are communities that have had more than their fair share of development and where all the above are heavily stressed as a result.
    5) we need more housing for the growing elderly population and should look again at high rise, and single occupancy accommodation that will make more room for families. We should also encourage adding rooms to existing houses. Many of our planning rules still stress appearance too much over utility.
    6) I agree that new towns are a better solution than adding indefinitely to conurbations. But there ARE still many brownfield sites where I live and also many sites that have planning permission approved but are still not being built on, or which have been half-finished for years. We need to break these log jams

  • Jayne Mansfield 12th Aug '15 - 3:44pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach,
    Thank you for your explanation. It sounds like a progressive tax.

  • Max Wilkinson 12th Aug '15 - 3:47pm

    Andrew makes a list of very reasonable points.

    Local authorities need to ensure that infrastructure is upgraded to match developments. It is of course fair that developers are asked to make contributions.

  • Matthew,

    In response to the arguments you predict:

    “Little Old Lady in the Big House”

    Allowing Equity payment. – added with the fact that it shold be phasedin over a long period, substituting for other taxes there would be opotunity for her to move.

    “Wannabe Entrepreneur”

    He would be able to buy a big house just would do so in a cheaper area and the purchase would be cheaper still as the market would have moved to factor in the LVT, he as an entrepreneur would have a good income so be able to pay the tax from the large cash flow…

    “Heir Apparent”

    LVT will cause prices to rise less quickly as it is phased in so will make buying the house he needs more affordable for him. It is unlikely that LVT will be so high for his parents any way (if factoring in your suggestion months ago of an allowance even more so). If the house is so large (and in expensive location) that the parents were to pay a big bill the LVT would encourage them to down size and free up capital to allow them to help him earlier (if they had any intention to do so)…

    I agree there will be lots of claims and the LVT needs to have been carefully thought through (including not making exaggerated claims about what it will raise), but the case does need to be made but made from a position of good preparation.

  • Eddie

    “If you look at Britain from Google Earth you wil see a lot of it is already grey”

    I think we must be looking at different Britains on Google Earth…

    “I just don’t see this crisis and someone will have to explain better.”

    There is the issue of affordability but also the mix of property, for example in high demand areas many “normal family homes” and now even “started homes” have been converted to flats where they provide inadequate space. The new home built are significantly smaller.

    We do have problems with occupation (I know many baby boomers who continue to over occupy at a stage in life by which their parents had down sized). The current structures cause people to try and adapt their current property rather than move to a more suitable one.

    You may walk past estate agents that have lots of property in the windows in high demand areas but try walking in and asking what they have, often they are showing things that have been sold for some time. Chains have become very long I know someone who lived in London who had an offer on their house in days but it took 8 months for the transaction to complete due to the number of times the chain collapsed due to the lack of “normal” slack the housing market had in it.

    When interest rates rise prices will re adjust but not sufficiently due to the supply constraint. There needs to be more housing built, more moving by people to meet their needs, (Also the need for developing the infrastructure in other areas of the country but I‘ll leave that to another discussion) and interest rates to rise. All of these are needed, but the need for more housing cannot be avoided.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Aug '15 - 6:37pm

    At autumn conference in Glasgow Tim Farron was part of the panel in a fringe meeting on housing.
    The first point is that the UK has a “crude surplus” of housing, with substantial variations in need.
    Go and look at the excellent housing built in Northern Ireland, by a non-sectarian housing authority.
    Then look at the crumbling housing estates where a coal mine was the only local employment, In England, in Wales and in Scotland.
    Then look at flats for rent in Greater London and wonder why every room has a refrigerator and many rooms have mirrors on the ceiling.
    Although major ports such as Dover and Heathrow are in the southeast, it is not immigration which causes the demand for housing, the costs to rent or buy are amazingly high, but London has jobs so people need housing and also commute from all the Home Counties and beyond.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Aug '15 - 6:55pm

    In Tunbridge Wells there is a derelict site opposite the Town Hall. It had a derelict cinema on it for 14 years. The Tories have an overall majority on the borough council and there is a Tory MP.

    A Liberal Democrat petition to demolish the site using a section of the Town and Country Planning Act achieved 14,000 signatures. The owners removed the asbestos, demolished the site and fenced it.
    A subcommittee of the Tory -contrlled council paid to decorate the hoardings with local pictures, including one of a big four bank a few yards away whom these supposedly enterprenurial people had not asked to pay for the advertisement.
    A free local paper, timesoftunbridgewells.co.uk, has featured the site again today, 12/8/2015, pages 4,5 and 6.

    The site is close a mainline railway station, local shops, offices, etc, and would be suitable for a mixed development including housing and shops. It has been passed from one property company to another several times and has been put up for sale again.

    Ideas welcome.

  • Some times NIBY goes across 2 councils. I live in the edge of Cheltenham, a LibDem council, but 100+ yards away is the boundary for Tewkesbury, a Conservative council that has a policy of dumping all developments on the edge of Cheltenham and Gloucester. Thy want to protect their small towns and villages, except Bishops Cleeve that they sacrificed to the developers years ago. How do we defend green spaces when we can not vote out the people who vote for development?

  • Excellent! Yes, many projects are bad for one reason or another. But it’s very easy to fall for the tragedy of the commons. Nobody wants housing near them, but when everyone acts on that we get huge problems nationally from a series of innocuous local decisions.

    If liberals are for freedom where none are harmed they should be for the freedom to build so long as the houses are safe and dont pollute or otherwise harm others. We need to find ways to target renters and people newly arrived in the area, and give them the message that we are for making it cheaper for them to rent, or to get on the property ladder.

  • John Tilley 13th Aug '15 - 6:41am

    Psi 12th Aug ’15 – 5:37pm
    “….. I know someone who lived in London who had an offer on their house in days but it took 8 months for the transaction to complete due to the number of times the chain collapsed …”

    Glad you mentioned this, Psi. It is a very common and very unwelcome experience in London.

    This is the reality of the so-called free-market.
    The 8 months delay with all the frustrations, irritations, inefficiency, waste of time, waste of money, stupidity and nuisance does not result from Nimbyism or the “fetishisation of the green belt” as Max Parish’s original article would suggest.

    It results from the inefficient, law of the jungle, under-regulated activities of people selling houses.

    In Scotland the regulations and the traditional legal approach to house sales is quite different. Does Nimbyism and fetishisation stop at the border?

    I am not suggesting that things in Scotland are perfect just that it is possible to regulate things differently and to illustrate that the original article at the top of this thread is long on hyperbole and short on reality. Because that is what happens when you swallow a lot of libertarian nonsense and try and apply it to policy.

  • We need to be able to influence the housing mix much more than we can at the moment. I am one of the growing army of older single people who as I move around has to live in family housing. It is very difficult to find attractive more appropriate property to buy other than souless and very expensive flats. We need to ensure housing developments have a good mix of properties so that people can downsize and upsize but stay in their local communities.

  • Richard Sangster 13th Aug '15 - 8:36am

    I would suggest that natural liberals are not particularly given to whingeing, and therefore making appeasing Nimbies a main plank of local campaigning, will have limited value, especially if other issues are overlooked. Of course, planning applications need to be properly scrutinised, but it must be borne in mind that there is a severe shortage of housing in this country.

    It is a waste of time to go on and on that a development shouldn’t be built, once construction starts. The main effect is to wind up reasonable people, who realise that we have to build houses.

    As there are nearly as many UK citizens living the rest of Europe as there are citizens of the rest of Europe living in the UK, immigration is only minor contributor to our housing shortage.

  • Peter Thornton 13th Aug '15 - 9:43am

    The problem is that opposition to housing development is a natural policy for an opposition – and in most places we are in opposition.
    In South Lakeland we are in power and our Conservative opposition have enthusiastically taken on the roll of protecting the “green fields” As housing portfolio holder, and then leader, I gained the title “Bulldozer Pete”!
    However, there are always ways of nuancing ones opposition and I agree with the original article that we have to be careful that we’re not seen as automatic Nimbys.

  • Sometimes Councils come up with daft idea. These need to be challenged.
    Developers lost my sympathy when they rushed to build on back gardens while leaving barren of houses or flats land for which they had planning permission for thirty odd years.
    I spent my last few years on Sandwell Council persuading the Labour Cabinet member to use two pieces of land in mt ward sensibly . To not overdevelop one, which gave us the only chance of providing a modest building to serve an isolated estate and to build attractive smaller properties on another (for rent) which would have released a few larger Council houses.
    Cabinet members changed and until recently nothing happened. Now we have a rash of properties built rather close on one site and possible options on the other site. On one we have lost the community benefit and the other might provide a community benefit but will not do anything about the Council House use. Housing is not simple yes or no but why and what would give a good outcome. Planners like big simple schemes and so do developers. Communities can and are rather more sensible. Persuading planners who have to deal with a presumption in favour of development and developers who have become used to getting away with bending permissions is not easy.

  • Positive and negative externalities in the spacial and economic environment are capitalised into land values. Therefore in order to have a functioning property market, those who benefit from regulations should pay for value they get, and those who are disadvantaged should be compensated, That what a Land Value Tax does. And because it aligns incentives it aids economic efficiency.

    It is not a lack of supply that makes housing unaffordable, rather our unjust economic system which transfers wealth and wellbeing from those who own little or no land, to those who do.

    A Land Tax would not only make the average UK household £11,500 per year better in their pocket, but the reduction in land values would reduced mortgage interest payments by £6500 per year. Together housing becomes four times more affordable as a ratio of discretionary income.

  • Peter Parsons 13th Aug '15 - 1:17pm

    Interesting to see the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors criticising the government for failing to address the supply side of the housing market (http://www.rics.org/uk/news/news-insight/press-releases/house-prices-affected-by-growing-demand-and-contracting-supply/).

    Increase supply to be in line with demand and the market will naturally adjust prices to make housing more affordable. However, the supply side is the politically most challenging – apart from the significant increase in new developments required (and the NIMBYism this article references), as Max also notes, this will result in on-paper capital losses for many (and who wants to be the politician or party responsible for taking away, say, 10-20% of the perceived value of every homeowner’s biggest asset), which is why the easy option is to fiddle around with the demand side (First Time Buyer ISAs and the like).

  • John Tilley
    “This is the reality of the so-called free-market.”
    “It results from the inefficient, law of the jungle, under-regulated activities of people selling houses.”
    “In Scotland the regulations and the traditional legal approach to house sales is quite different.”

    I think you are misrepresenting the issue. I also favour the Scottish System as it faster and reduces the opportunity for gazumping and gazundering. The method of buying and selling property in no situation is a “free market” as it is one of the most legalistic parts of our lives. It can have varying legal frameworks but I don’e see either as remotrly “free market.”

    London suffers from the constant flow of people in to it from elsewhere in the UK and the rest of the world, its housing stock has not kept up. It is now the largest it has ever been, the supply has to keep up, so far it hasn’t. Other factors are at play too but the supply is the biggest problem.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Aug '15 - 8:57pm

    Psi

    Matthew,

    In response to the arguments you predict:

    Oh sure. Please don’t think I agree with these criticisms. When they are made I reply with similar answers to yours.

    My point is that these are the things that get thrown back if one does propose anything like LVT or even a very much watered down version of it. People seem to think LVT is such a wonderful thing that if it is proposed people will flock to support it. Sadly, those who have a vested interest against it tend to throw emotional argument such as the ones I gave, and replies like yours tend to be dismissed, as they are rather technical. I myself have so often tried to push the line “but equity payment means this idea that the Little Old Lady will get thrown out of her home is ridiculous”, and, sorry to say, people tend to glaze over. It’s similar to trying to explain the case for STV.

    I’m not saying we should not push these things, I very much think we should. But it would be naive not to plan in advance for the inevitable attacks that will be made on them and on us for proposing them. We were naive in the AV referendum, losing because we thought it was so sensible that most people would support it. We were defeated, however, by emotional and innumerate arguments that we hadn’t prepared a defence against in advance.

  • Psi 13th Aug ’15 – 5:54pm

    Not sure if I explained myself adequately.
    I don’t think I disagree with what you say about house sales in England being too legalistic. Are you suggesting that it is a result of government intervention in the housing market?

    It seems to me that it has more to do with tradition, the legal profession (who have a big vested interest in stringing out the process as far as possible charging clients prices for qualified staff whilst employing juniors or unqualified staff to actually do the work) and estate agents who have a vested interest in forcing up prices because 2% of £600,000 is better than 2% of £560,000. If you were an estate agent why would you not want to gazump and then gazump again to exploit the situation and boost your commission?

    All of this has nothing to do with nimbyism or planning regulations because as has been pointed out already in this thread 90% of sales are not new build.

  • Katerina Porter 15th Aug '15 - 4:46pm

    Richard Rogers’ study shows that there are sufficient brownfield sites for many years to come. We should not be backing garden cities, which take a very long time to plan, build with needed infrastructure and develop communities. Many were built after the War and we shoud learn the lessons. They also involve transport costs to reach employment,education etc.
    Brownfield have the advantage of having a lot of the infrastructure within reach. What is important in planning is the creation of good public space tied in with the housing. Building social housing should be the priority. Mrs Thatcher’s “property owning democracy” and denying councils the right to replace what was sold was also in order to support private landlords and we have been subsidising them ever since – housing benefit is one of the biggest items in the welfare bill. If there was enough social housing private rents should go down, and some landlords would prefer to sell so providing more affordable housing for sale.
    By the way many developments are really inadequate because building regulations specifying minimum sized bedrooms, living rooms etc were abolished. Regulations are important!

  • John Tilley

    “I don’t think I disagree with what you say about house sales in England being too legalistic. Are you suggesting that it is a result of government intervention in the housing market?”

    I wasn’t passing comment on the ‘right’ level for how legalistic land law in E&W should be, I prefer the Scottish system but don’t have a fixed idea about exactly how I would want it to work.

    I am saying a poor performing legal system fro land law is a government failure as it is related to property rights so there is no free market system that I would support for that, so the best system would also have heavy government involvement too. It is the nature of anything regarding property rights they are a responsibility of government so any failings our their responsibility to resolve (though the solution will also be government lead, so any success is as a result of their involvement).

    My broader point is when demand becomes so high above supply when the growth of population has outstripped increases in supply the market will become increasingly tight. When there is a very limited stock moving the chains will get longer and longer with more problems.

  • Max Parish

    Congrats on producing what appears to be excellent LDV click bait. I only saw your last one when it was already very full so didn’t join in but I’m impressed with the level of engagement you can generate.

  • There are two ways to attack the housing crisis…
    1) Remove the ‘Right-to-buy’….
    2)Extend the right to buy to the private sector…
    It is the economics of the madhouse to sell council/HA homes at below market price and expect to fund replacement homes….
    40% of RtB property is now in the private rental sector and for those poorer families renting privately £4 of every £10 goes on rents…Every year the situation worsens and promises to replace sold homes have proved to be false….

    If £50B (plus) is available for HS2, whilst too few homes are being built, then the priorities are all wrong

  • Expats

    “There are two ways to attack the housing crisis…
    1) Remove the ‘Right-to-buy’….”

    A shortage of housing is not fixed by simply sustaining the current tiny level of council houses. The current govt proposals of applying it to HA has to be stopped, but more housing is needed where it is wanted.

    “2)Extend the right to buy to the private sector…”

    So restricting the supply of private rented housing? I’ve had to find rental accommodation in new locations in the past when my family and I have mobed, under your system where there is no private rental available how you expect us to house ourselves?

  • Psi 17th Aug ’15 – 5:57pm ………… shortage of housing is not fixed by simply sustaining the current tiny level of council houses. The current govt proposals of applying it to HA has to be stopped, but more housing is needed where it is wanted………..
    If councils/HA are not forced to sell houses at a loss more can be built…..

    …………..So restricting the supply of private rented housing? I’ve had to find rental accommodation in new locations in the past when my family and I have mobed, under your system where there is no private rental available how you expect us to house ourselves?…………

    What such a policy will do is stop landlords outbidding families who need homes and help to stop the insane ‘houses as an investment’ situation This will reduce the cost of homes, allow more people to buy and reduce the demand for rented accommodation……Buy-to-let lenders typically want rent to cover 125% of the mortgage repayments….. and landlords expect 8-10% returns

  • Expats

    Your policy would have the extreme effect of putting a very high risk factor in to being a landlord pushing the focus to generate profit very fast and early or getting out all together. Well that may push down purchase prices slightly in the short term buy it would cause the rental market to split the affordable section for the regular worker would disappear and the very high yield area would develop along with the weird unprotected market would explode.

    Given the choice of building the homes we need and causing loads of unforseen weird outcomes I know what I would chose.

  • Psi 17th Aug ’15 – 11:21pm………………. Given the choice of building the homes we need and causing loads of unforseen weird outcomes I know what I would chose………………

    So would I; hence, option 1).

  • expats

    Sorry I missed your first comment about HAs, I agree that the current proposal would be devastating (not to mention that they are an affront to sensible property rights). But there will need to be both private and social development. It sounds like we are not far apart.

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