It is increasingly common for politicians, commentators to use soundbites or simple phrases to present the cause and often the solution to a problem. We hear that the economic problems the country face is due to the previous Governments over-spending, that welfare spending is out of control. Sounds so easy, so simple an explanation.
Housing is another area where simplistic solutions abound. There would not be a problem if:
We used all the empty houses;
If we just built more houses;
If we evicted the poor and elderly from their ‘spacious’ homes
We had a Land Value Tax
Freed up the planning system.
Yes its quite simple really!
Yet the reality is that many issues are more complex than they might appear and therefore require more complex and often subtle policy prescriptions.
If we use the example of housing what do we find?
On empty housing – there is always are a proportion of empty houses – usually empty for a good reason.
Building more houses – oh yes thats the answer – not! Building more houses in Cornwall has bumped up the number of second homes and holiday lets!
Evicting the poor and elderly as with the bedroom tax – that is not only blaming the wrong people it’s hardly a mark of a civilized society.
A Land Value Tax – the components of supply and demand in the housing market and the interaction between them are more complex than Henry George ever envisaged.
Freeing up the planning system – anyone who believes that the planning system stops houses from being built must live on another planet. In Cornwall we have permissions galore.
So what can we do?
- Recognise that there is no simple solution – sorry but that’s the reality!
- Change the planning system – develop the change of use approach to control what houses are used for.
- Introduce a weighting system to even up the opportunities for residents compared to people moving to Cornwall with greater assets.
- Build directly funded affordable housing to meet local housing need.
- Restrict ownership of dwellings to deter multiple ownership and use of dwellings for investments.
- Recognise that a stable or falling population would be advantageous for the UK instead of the ‘dash for population growth’ currently favoured.
- Reduce inequalities in income and wealth.
Sounds complex? yes but that’s the nature of the issue. Will it solve it? Not in its entirety but it would be a start!