The BBC reports that a Local Government Association finding that almost 400,000 homes in Britain have been given planning permission but are not being built. The study blames government restrictions on how much councils can spend on housing. Note the assumption that this must all be done from public funds. The LGA criticizes the cap on the amount that local authorities can “invest” in public housing. “Invest” is Brownspeak for “spend,” of course.
Government has eased the planning laws a little, but has devoted considerable effort to helping people raise loans to buy houses with. Wrong. If you increase the money going into housing without building more houses, the prices will rise. Here are some of the problems:
1. There is more demand. Population is increasing, more are choosing to live alone, and people live longer and occupy housing for longer.
2. There are restrictions on supply. Those with houses in the country oppose any more being built as these will diminish their amenity, and the value of their own homes will go down if more become available.
3. Eco-lobbyists who oppose economic growth and expansion use delaying tactics to make development time-consuming and costly.
We are building about 140,000 houses a year against an estimated need for 300,000 a year. Of house sales each year, some 37.3% go to first time buyers, which is why the average age of becoming a home-owner is rising, and why many young people are coming to regard renting as their only option.
The need is simply for more houses. The country lobby produces unrealistic figures to suggest that all of these, and more, could be built on brownfield (used) land. In fact more than 70% of those currently being built are on brownfield land; more greenfield land will be needed to increase the numbers. Some more issues:
Only 8% of UK land is urban space. Large tracts of ‘greenbelt’ land are not environmentally friendly, but given over to intensive farming, with prairies of monoculture involving heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides.
On the Continent one often sees houses on hillsides or nestling at the edge of woods. They are often quite pretty, but here they seem to be regarded as a disfigurement of the landscape. For some crazy reason we try to build all our houses together.
The solution is to change our attitudes and presume a right of development for property owners. If you want to build a house on your land, you should be able to unless it causes major nuisance to others. And those 400,000 homes granted planning permission but not yet built should be turned over to private citizens and housing associations to develop, rather than having local authorities lobbying government for more public money.
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