Asks the BBC.
It's the wrong question, actually, but the article debunks most of the standard assumptions. The only one which stands up to closer scrutiny is:
The state no longer builds
Between the late 1940s and late 1950s councils built more homes than the private sector. Right up to the late 1970s local authorities were building 100,000 homes a year. But with the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 house building by local authorities fell...
Kate Henderson, of the Town and Country Planning Association, agrees. The current failure to build anything like the numbers from the 1950s and 1960s - when councils were building as many homes as the total house building figure today - shows the private sector is incapable [the rest of the article explains that the private sector is not incapable but unwilling] of delivering on its own, she says.
The article does not mention the fact that the population of England (53 or 54 million) is less than the total number of bedrooms, which is at least 56 million, according to the English Housing Survey.
"Ah yes," cry the Homeys, "But you overlook that there are so many single-person households nowadays!". By implication, we have an too many large homes and not enough small ones (and too few overall).
No I don't, and it's not even true/relevant.
In very round figures, from the English Housing Survey and here we get the following:
Three or more bedrooms - 14 million
Two bedrooms - 6 million
One bedroom - 2.5 million
Three or more individuals - 9 million
Two adults - 5.5 million
Single adult - 8 million
So broadly speaking, if single-person households all lived in one- or two-bedroom homes (mainly flats), there would be nearly enough three-bedroom homes (mainly houses) for each household with two or more individuals.
So if we all right-sized, just about everybody could have their own bedroom, especially as couples usually share a bedroom. So most households would still have a spare bedroom, which is a nice thing to have.
There might not be enough five-plus bedroom houses for families with three-plus kids, but that's a) their decision, b) this situation only lasts for a few years and c) they can always squeeze an extra bedroom or two out of a loft conversion.
The question they are really asking is "Why are house prices and rents so high?" because they think that building more homes would get prices and rents down. As we well know, if you simply build more homes in the right places, then overall average prices and rents go up slightly in the medium and long term rather than down.
(Please note - the BBC does not mention the myth that 'high house prices are all down to immigration' so does not debunk it either. The fact that we have let some of the wrong sort of people in to this country is a separate topic. We've also failed to let a lot of the right people in, if you ask me).
And whatever the question is, the answer is, as it is to most economic 'problems', to reduce taxes on output, earnings and profits and collect government revenues from the rental value of land instead.
Tuesday, 13 January 2015
Asks the BBC.
My latest blogpost: "Why can't the UK build 240,000 houses a year?"Tweet this! Posted by Mark Wadsworth at 12:44