Fake news, false evidence and fantasy – the world of the gullible ‘we need to build more houses’!

There are those who think that fake news and false evidence is the preserve of people like Michael Gove or Donald Trump. But it is far wider than that. For example:

This doesn’t, however, solve the question of where we’re going to put all these new houses. The standard answer to that is “brownfield” – conveniently vacant land that’s already been built on, and so won’t offend too many people if it’s built on again. But the truth is that, in much of the country, there isn’t enough of that to go round. If we’re actually going to meet demand for new homes, we have only two options: we can either build up, or build out.
Building up doesn’t necessarily mean skyscrapers. British cities, with their reliance on semi-detached homes occupying individual plots, are actually very low-density compared to most European cities. Gradually filling London with apartment blocks of the sort that line the boulevards of Paris or Vienna could go some way to meeting the city’s housing need, without turning it into the set of Blade Runner. The public sector even owns large tracts of land where we could put these new homes

The drawback? Most of that land is occupied by homes already, in the form of existing council estates. Real world governments have shown themselves more than willing to redevelop those – but they’ve generally tried to do so on the cheap, maximising the number of private homes available at the expense of social homes, and repeatedly breaking promises to tenants.

Our fantasy government wouldn’t pull these tricks: it would guarantee social tenants’ rights to homes of equivalent size in the same area, and it would act in a way that showed that it understood these are homes, rather than simply government property for it to dispose of as it wishes. Nonetheless, it would replace some of the more crumbling and impermeable postwar council estates with new streets, filled with European-style mansion blocks rather than the cramped, magnolia, hall of residence-style that characterises most British new-builds. Such is the need for new homes that, in select areas, it would probably use stronger compulsory purchase rules to acquire land.

Increasing density in this way would allow it to increase the number of both private and social homes, creating vibrant, new mixed communities. This would probably take a bit more cash upfront than past redevelopments – but since our government has shown itself willing to invest for the long-term, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Comprehensively redeveloping the inner cities will take time – but luckily, there is an easier way to meet housing need. All around London, Oxford, Bristol and other cities in housing crisis, there is open space, often inaccessible to the public and occupied by nothing prettier than some chemical-drenched arable land. The reason we don’t build on it? Because when green belts were introduced in the mid-20th century, it just happened to be unoccupied.


Yet this is all based on some wild assertions
What makes the writer think more people want to live at higher densities?

Arable land – unoccupied? And where does food come from?

Oh and we are not building enough homes? Really? Look out for tomorrows blog on England – houses and households!


One comment on “Fake news, false evidence and fantasy – the world of the gullible ‘we need to build more houses’!

  1. Davydh T says:

    In Cambridge, what has actually happened is that instead of building on much of the Green Belt, they leapfrog the Green Belt and build a ‘new village’ (or actually an exurb), there are several examples such as Bar Hill which is basically built around a giant Tescos.

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