The housing crisis, or - 'All your property belongs to the state'.

Tom de Castella comments at the BBC about eight proposed solutions to our housing crisis.

The current debate about housing seems to have been sparked by the Intergenerational Foundation report which suggests older people should be taxed into smaller properties.

Eight radical solutions to the housing crisis

Pressure to address the UK's housing crisis grows ever stronger, with a number of radical solutions being put forward to ease the strain.

Just 134,000 new homes were built in the UK in 2010, the lowest number since World War II. This is despite 230,000 new households being formed every year. By 2025 there will be a housing shortfall of 750,000 in England alone, according to the IPPR.

House building may be slowing down, however Britain is only a small country and we cannot keep building on the land ad infinitum.

Many new households are being formed every year but they don't all require new houses to be built. As the older generation pass on, houses come back onto the market.

Not only are there an increasing number of families being formed, the lifestyle expectations of these families are increasing too. More on that later.

The shortage is hitting the younger generation hardest. A fifth of 18-to-34-year-olds has been forced to live with their parents because they can't afford to rent or buy a home, according to the charity Shelter.

That situation is perfectly fine. It is normal to live with your parents as a younger person until you have saved up for a deposit on your own property or are in a position to rent in the meantime. No eighteen year old should expect to be able to move out of the family home and get a mortgage.

So what are the radical proposals to help the housing crisis and will they work?

Encourage the elderly out of big houses

Campaigners say single people should also move out of large homes One solution is to free up family housing by offering elderly people tax breaks to move into smaller homes..
Many would argue that people who have worked hard to buy their own home can live in whatever sized house they want. Some of them say it is not just the elderly who live in houses that are too big for them.
I would also argue that people are entitled to live in any property they have worked and paid for. Housing stock is not the property of the state. If you have bought it. it's yours to do with as you please.

What is overlooked in this report is that older people who are living in large houses will not do so for ever. Eventually they will die and the property will again be available for someone else. It may go back on the market or be left to siblings who can up size with their family. While they are alive and living in a property they have purchased, they have the right to enjoy it any way they please.

Guardian columnist George Monbiot says people who live alone in large houses should lose the 25% council tax discount available to single people.
Council tax pays for local services. Single people use less services than couples or families. That's why they get a discount. George Monbiot is suggesting we change the nature of council tax and use it as a bullying tool to get people he disapproves of to conform to his life perceptions.

Freestyle planning

Proposed changes to the planning laws have raised concerns about Britain's green belt Steve Turner, a spokesman for the Home Builders Federation, says the planning system has been an obstacle for growth for years. "For decades the planning system has not been delivering enough land to meet the housing needs of our population," he says.
Alex Morton, research fellow at the right-leaning Policy Exchange think tank, says the answer is to reduce the cost of land by freeing up areas for development. "We must shake up our out-of-date planning system, which was designed for the government run-society of the 1940s," he says.
I don't see the planning laws as being the primary problem, rather what is built on the land when permission is granted. A number of housing developments have gone up in my local area over the past few years. Each of the houses are detached or semi-detached with large gardens and garages.

When was the last time anyone built rows of terraced houses?

Terraces are still popular with house buyers, are more affordable and take up a lot less space than modern estates. You could argue that builders create what the people want and you would be correct.

That means a lot of high priced houses are being built that are unaffordable to the younger generation. It doesn't help that the modern younger generation expect to be able to buy a large house with grounds and start a family before they have even worked up the career ladder.

New terraced houses would provide more affordable properties for younger people. They would then need to work hard and move up the property ladder if they want better.

Land costs alone are between about £30,000 and £60,000 per home, he says.
But you can fit two or three good size, two bedroom terraces on a modern house plot.

Contain population growth

The number of households in England is projected to increase from 21.7m in 2008 to 27.5m by 2033, an increase of 5.8m or 27%.
Demand for housing is set to rise "There's been a remarkable silence on the impact of migration on housing demand," says Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch.
Population growth in England affect housing from two directions, immigration and our own expanding domestic population. The reason for both these problems is the welfare state.

Immigration is perfectly fine and I am a believer in open borders. What we shouldn't be doing is giving free money and housing to those who immigrate here from abroad. Immigrants should be responsible for paying their own way for long enough to be considered eligible for welfare, and then only as a short term safety net.

If we stopped giving free stuff to immigrants and made them pay their own way, many of them would stop coming. Only the financially independent or those who have skills to get work here would come.

In the same vein we should stop giving free money to British people who just won't stop having children.

If benefits were only available as a short term option, and allowances for children were only available for the first one, benefit scroungers would no longer be in a position to keep having children until they had found work. The more we pay people for breeding, the more they will do it.

And the work is available. If the benefit system was drastically rolled back, those who now live on benefits would have to start taking on the menial work that they currently think is beneath them. This would mean that picking and packing jobs for example, would not be available for immigrants, so they would need real skills in order to gain work in this country.

"It's a third of the whole issue and no-one's talking about it," he adds. He believes it is possible to bring immigration down to David Cameron's target of "tens of thousands", but it will probably take two Parliaments rather than one to achieve.
I think it could take two weeks if we made a firm decision.

But Monbiot says it's neither a practical nor humane way to deal with the problem. "It would be foolish to deny that immigration contributes to housing pressures," he says. "But to say we could solve this through controlling the population - that's the hardest way of doing it. And I'd be very reluctant to take this out on immigrants."
We wouldn't be taking anything out on immigrants. All we would be doing is telling people who want to immigrate in the future that they are welcome to do so but must pay their own way. The taxpayers of Britain do not owe a home and an income to anyone who decides they quite like the look of England. Other countries don't do it, we shouldn't either.

Force landlords to sell or let empty properties

There are nearly one million empty homes in the UK, and 350,000 of them have been empty for more than six months.
If we are talking about private property owned by private landlords we come back to the issue of property rights. If they have paid for the property then they can do with it as they please.

If we are talking about council property standing empty then yes, this could be brought back into use. The question is, private or public, what is stopping the landlords from letting or selling the property? I can't imagine an empty property would do anything more than cost the owner money.

There are various reasons why landlords do not sell or let empty houses, such as property speculation and tax savings. There is zero VAT on building new homes, while converting or renovating properties attracts only a reduced rate. The main reason why properties lie empty is that landlords can't afford to do them up, says Ireland, and the answer to this would be to offer a loan to anyone wanting to refurbish them.
Maybe the government could reduce the tax and red tape that surrounds privately letting a property.

It's time for bolder measures, Ireland argues. A significant number of the empty homes are publicly owned.
The answer is to give people the right to buy or rent. They would be given reduced rent in return for doing up the property and their proposal would be overseen by an independent tribunal.
If a significant number of empty homes are publicly owned then this needs to be addressed, even if it means selling them on to property developers who have the cash to make them livable and sell them on for a profit.

I don't know why councils would keep livable properties empty when there is a long waiting list for council property. Maybe a lot of these properties are under the administration of private associations that contract to the council. If this is the case than the contracts need to be looked at as these associations should not be keeping property empty because of a cost issue.

Ban second homes
In some parts of Britain holiday homes account for a substantial proportion of the housing stock. About one in 20 households across Cornwall is a second home and owners receive a council tax discount. There's a fundamental unfairness in the fact that there's no penalty on owning a second home, says Monbiot.
This is the one that really pulls my chain. Monbiot is talking about banning people from buying things with money they have earned. You wouldn't ban second cars or second ornate glass chess sets.

Suggesting there should be a penalty for owning a second home really puts his views into perspective. He believes that all property belongs to the state rather than the individual and it should only be allocated where need can be demonstrated.

He doesn't suggest this should apply to the Royal Family or all MP's.

About 13,500 properties in Cornwall are second homes "Why are they doing this? We should be rewarding social good."
What is social good? Does it even exist? No. It is simply words that the collectivist uses to vilify the individual and bring them into line through a sense of manufactured guilt.

While we envy the person who is successful enough to own a holiday home on the coast, that envy would inspire people like myself to do better, but the collectivist demands the fruits of their life efforts be taken and distributed to the less deserving.

Local authorities should increase council tax on those with a second or third home, Monbiot says.
As stated above, council tax is not a weapon to bully people, it pays for local services. Lower occupancy must mean less consumption of local services.

But TV property presenter Sarah Beeny says second homes are not responsible for the housing crisis and banning them is "quite extreme".
Indeed. It is a proposal based on green and envy.

Guarantee mortgage payments

In these difficult economic times, a lack of mortgage availability is the short-term constraint on development, say house builders.
"If people can't buy, builders can't build," says Steve Turner from the Home Builders Federation.
I still like my terraced house idea. Terraces may not be very architecturally challenging for builders, but at least they will be building something that more people can afford.

Most first-time buyers need a large deposit to buy a home. Ways need to be found to encourage mortgage lenders to lend on terms that people can afford, he argues.
There are many mortgages out there and many deals available. The interest rates are currently very low. It's probably good that people have to save up a big deposit because 100% + mortgages were getting a number of people in debt that they couldn't afford. Mortgage companies will still lend to customers who can afford it, government intervention is likely to do more harm than good.

The best way of doing this is for the government, house builders and mortgage lenders to club together to fund an insurance scheme that would underwrite mortgages where the lender defaults.
For 'Government' read 'Taxpayer', and would house builders be forced to pay into such a scheme?

But mortgage lenders are risk-averse and have imposed stricter lending criteria for obvious reasons. The first global financial crisis in 2007 was precipitated by the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market in the US, where banks give high-risk loans to people with poor credit histories.
Meddling in such a fashion could only cause more problems in the long term.

Live with extended family

The general trend is for more people to live on their own rather than with a big family. But in southern European countries, such as Italy, it is much more common for families to live cheek-by-jowl.
Just because other countries do it, doesn't mean that we have to do it too. If you can afford your own property and you want to move out of the family home then the choice is your own.

This proposal is also in contradiction to the statement by 'Shelter' above:

The shortage is hitting the younger generation hardest. A fifth of 18-to-34-year-olds has been forced to live with their parents because they can't afford to rent or buy a home,
Either we demand that all eighteen year olds be entitled to their own house or we say everyone should live as an extended family. Meh?

Several generations often have no choice but to squeeze into the one home to keep costs down. And the UK has its own "boomerang" generation, where young people have to move back home because they cannot afford to get on the property ladder. But where there is a choice, most people would prefer a more private and comfortable living arrangement.
Intergenerational living is certainly an option if you can't all afford your own houses and it is what you choose to do. If one person wants to move out on their own then no one can stop them making that choice.

Build more council homes

Council homes have been part of British society for more than a century, from the "homes for heroes" cottages that were built in the wake of World War I to the much-maligned, monolithic high rises of the 60s and 70s.
Maybe they should begin by letting all those empty houses that they reportedly have.

Then they could shift all those illegal immigrants awaiting deportation or appeals from their council properties and stop giving property to new immigrants.

We could also do with a cap on the value of council property. Local councils are continually having to house large families who live on benefits and this requires very expensive, multi bedroomed houses. If we were to limit council property to at most, three bedroomed houses, maybe this would encourage benefit families away from constant breeding if they know they are not going to be given a bigger house.

New houses in Maidstone, Kent, in 1957 But the "right-to-buy" phenomenon, started by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government in 1979, led to a massive depletion in council housing stock, with more than two million tenants taking advantage of the scheme.
And making a lot of money in the process when they sold their cheap new houses on the private market.

Abigail Davies, assistant director of policy and practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing, says there is a high demand for social housing across the UK.
Indeed and it's the demand that needs reducing rather than more houses building. I rarely trust the council or government to take on any large task, distributing public housing is one of them.

"If you look at waiting lists, although a pretty crude measure, they are much higher and longer than could ever be matched by the turnover."
And it's the waiting lists that need to be reduced by telling many of the people on those lists that they are either not entitled to a property at all or not entitled to an upgrade.


Many of these proposals simply wouldn't work or would serve to penalise hard working people who have bought their own properties with their own money.

What we need is not some socialist leaning scheme to bully people in big houses, but a fundamental shift in the way we view housing as an entitlement.

Free housing should not be given to immigrants or as a reward for having a child.
The welfare state needs to be seriously rolled back.
Young people need to loose their sense of entitlement and aim low when buying a first house.
People need to understand that having a child is not a right that must be paid for by the taxpayer. New families need to plan finances and housing long before starting to have children.
Lifestyle expectations need to change. Nobody can expect all their wants and desires to be fulfilled in the first couple of years after leaving the family home, no matter what New Labour tried to tell us. You can only expect to get what you work hard for.
All people need to understand that they should only buy what they can afford. All socialists should understand that once bought, private property is not property of the state.

We don't need more Government intervention to solve this crisis (if there really is one), what we need the most is less Government.


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