Housing at the centre of the debate

There has been a tussle going on over how to finance a larger housebuilding programme. The Prime Minister announced her intention to build more homes in her Conference speech, but was only able to agree modest sums of public money for the affordable housing she had in mind. The Treasury is seeking to limit the expenditure of taxpayer cash, and to look at other ways of relaxing the housing market to foster more development.

This week  we read that the independent Office of National Statistics who put the £70bn of Housing Association debt onto the government’s balance sheet in 2015 is now going to take it off. The Office is apparently now satisfied that the Housing Associations are sufficiently  independent of government so their debt is not part of the state’s obligations. This follows legislative changes concerning Housing Association finances and management.

This is significant because it removes Treasury concerns that more Housing Association borrowing impedes reducing state borrowing as a percentage of GDP, one of the government’s chosen targets. It will allow Housing Associations to borrow more to build more, subject to their own balance sheets and credit worthiness. It means that the Communities Secretary’s plea to borrow more at these current low interest rates to invest in housing has just got a bit easier for part of the housing sector.

Thursday we saw the PM out and about highlighting the housing issue. The Communities Secretary made a speech urging Councils to achieve more with their local plans. There remains the issue of the capacity of the housebuilding industry. Successful large companies dominate the activity, and have their own reasons to limit the pace of growth in their activity. They worry about maintaining standards, and recruiting and training sufficient skilled people. Local Colleges can help by putting on sufficient places for building trades courses, and promoting these to potential students.

As the government turns its attention to more affordable housing it is important it includes enough affordable housing to buy, as that is still the preferred tenure for most people. It also needs to expand shared ownership and rent to mortgage models to create additional pathways to ownership. The government should also bring forward its proposals for a new migration policy for post Brexit.

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81 Comments

  1. Fedupsoutherner
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    Instead of bricks and mortar we should consider a ‘house in a box’ similar to the type of housing found in Scandinavian countries. They are cheaper to build, well insulated (something that will be important with rising energy bills) and quick to erect. We should demolish many eyesores known as ‘listed buildings’ which can often be taking up a lot of valuable land space and that could take the pressure off the green belt. The problem in the UK is too many people and too much money being made by developers.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      Not sure about “too much money being made by developers”.

      It is the money being made by developers that makes them build more houses, and then is usually reinvested to build more. If you reduce incentive you will get fewer houses built. That is the market incentive that is needed.

      But I agree it is too many people (often on low wages) chasing too few houses – in the popular areas anyway.

    • stred
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      Prefabricated housing does not save over conventional construction and is not suitable for many of the small difficult sites that are available, as the plans have to be shaped to the boundaries and cannot be repeated. The main problem is that, even if unlimited money was available, there is not enough land to supply the increasing population. The high cost of planning, building regulation, conservation requiring slavish copies, insane preservation of pests, treating trees like sacred cows, wayleaves, legal conditions, submitting to councillors who can’t read a drawing and having to pay to consult dimwitted officials in LAs with high pay and pensions, is secondary. If this waste was removed, land prices would just go up. However, it would help small developers, who cannot even start to deal with it.

    • Posted November 19, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      Very interesting post and good points. I do believe, however, that we should begin calling this situation a ”population crisis” and not a ”housing crisis” which would then encompass all the other problems that come with too many people arriving too quickly and seemingly uncontrollably.

  2. DragE
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Have absolutely no idea how you expect anyone to comment on this?

  3. Lifelogic
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    There are many ways to increase housing supply and reduce the cost of building them. Many without any cost to government at all, indeed often the reverse. Relaxing the planning regulations being the main one (and stop demanding tree surveys, bat survey, newspaper notices and loads of other largely pointless expensive reports).
    Move to easy hire and fire, stop attacking the self employed and the flexible efficient gig economy, more to cheap reliable non green crap energy, cut out most of the OTT green crap building regulations, get more real competition in banking development and mortgage finance.

    Reduce the absurdly high stamp duty rates and the extra 3% mugging for landlords and thus tenants. Reduce land registry fees and cut some of the largely misdirected red tape on bank lending.

    Then stop funding all the pointless degrees at often duff universities (perhaps up to 75% of them) and move this money to training builders, electricians, roofers, engineers, ground workers and the likes. Many people will then have no useless degree no £50K of debt and can earn an income at 16 + or 18 +. People you go to university for a useless degree might will have no net earning after tax, NI and the student loan until they are 30 or so! Someone starting work at 16 has 14 years of income and experience by that age.

    Cancel HS2, all the green crap subsidies and Hinkley C and release these workers to build more sensible things instead. Cancel gender pay gap reporting, work place pensions and other time wasting lunacies.

    More competition in utility supply connections they often over charge hugely.

    Get a proper conservative government with a pro growth, small government, deregulation, positive vision so that the prospect of Corbyn’s Venezuela/Zimbabwe looks rather less likely. Stop forcing people to use over expensive (and expensive to run and less reliable) boilers and the likes. Get rid of the pointless energy performance certificates.

    Encourage more self build too. People buying a plot then perhaps living in a portacabin/caravan while they build their own homes in their spare time.

    • Peter A
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      My wife and I are doing a self-build project, it is in it’s 3rd year and is taking for ever, plus it is taking an awful lot of our work time. It alternates between dream and nightmare. The dream being seeing it being constructed, the nightmare all the hassle, delay and expense. I don’t think we’ll be trying another.

      • alan jutson
        Posted November 18, 2017 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

        Peter

        Rest assured it will be worth it in the end.

        We did it 37 years ago, when we designed and built a house we could never have afforded to purchase at the time on the open market.

        Still living in it, so must have done something right.

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      ‘Encourage more self build too. People buying a plot then perhaps living in a portacabin/caravan while they build their own homes in their spare time’

      – good idea. Make a great TV series as well!

      Imagine the satisfaction a husband and wife would have building their own home, and then having children and bringing up their children in the home they built with their own hands, including their own vegetable garden etc. Nothing hippy about this. Perfectly sensible for country in general and families.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Self build is extremely tax efficient too (and highly moral). You pay no tax or NI on your labours and get paid (gross in effect) in the value of the finished house. You save a lot of stamp duty as you only pay it on the plot value (zero if less than £125K), you can recover the VAT on the building materials and there is no CGT on principal private residences (usually but check) when you finally sell. Plus you can live in a caravan on the plot, probably without much or even any council tax during the build.

      You also learn a lot in the process. Certainly more that studying women & media studies at the University of Bognor Regis or similar.

      With the former you might come out with a house worth £500K, lots of useful skills and debt of say £300K with the later a useless degree and a debt of £50K.

      • Ed Mahony
        Posted November 20, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        Brilliant comment. Really captured my imagination as well as making perfect economic sense for individuals and the country as a whole.

        I strongly encourage you to write to anyone you know with influence – in politics, the media, television about this. Won’t change the world, but if 50,000 more people built their own homes because of some campaign based on what you’re saying, then it could make some difference. I can see a really great TV series being made on this, and the 50,000 could end up a lot more.

      • Ed Mahony
        Posted November 20, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        Just realised, the government is looking for more skills in building. Your proposal would also help to meet this demand!

        It’s a great idea. I strongly encourage you to pursue this. It’s really interesting from so many angles.

  4. Lifelogic
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    In short a bonfire of red tape, more builders, doers, stem subject students, sales people, engineers and far fewer red tape spewers & thus red tape consultants, planning consultants, bureaucrats, lawyers, hr experts and the likes.

    More people producing things of value and far fewer people spewing out red tape, producing next to nothing and hindering the productive.

    Alas we have May and Hammond so not much chance of anything sensible like this.

    • Hope
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      Cameron promised a bonfire of quangos instead he increased the number!

      • Lifelogic
        Posted November 18, 2017 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

        Was that a Cameron “Cast Iron” promise, or just a bog standard Cameron promise?

  5. Lifelogic
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    “The independent Office of National Statistics who put the £70bn of Housing Association debt onto the government’s balance sheet in 2015 is now going to take it off.”

    Clearly just a childish political move that fools no one, but enables Hammond to pretend he has not increases the public debt by quite as much as he has. Housing Associations are essentially grossly unfair competition for the private sector. Rather like the NHS and free schools – where is the competition authority here – they seem very selective in their activity?

    A good rule of thumb is that any organisation that feels it had to claim to be “independent” never is.

    • Hope
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      £560 billion paid in interest on the UK debt! Hammond still has no idea when the deficit will be balanced. We were promised 2015!

      • alan jutson
        Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

        Hope

        UK Debt Interest £560 Billion since year 2000

        Problem is it never will go down whilst so many want/demand more and more expenditure on almost everything.

        Problem is people have got used to living on borrowed money.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted November 19, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

          It is partly being pushed down by inflation. But they need to stop all the waste like HS2, the green crap …. and clearly have no interest in this.

    • Hope
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      Sayid Javid insults older generation for housing shortage that Labour’s mass immigration created and Tories blindly followed! Look at Migration Watches’ statistics and comments.

      May’s poll ratings plummeted when she announced her dementia tax, Javid appears to have no wish to be in office because of his ill informed lying comments about shortage of housing. Is he that ill informed or dim witted? The elderly, savers, prudent and strivers hit financially for ten years by this govt and Javid has the audacity to insult further! He ought to read Maudent’s first newspaper article, it was equally ill informed and dim witted. Perhaps ministers need to understand their responsibilities and stop blindly following civil servants pro EU left wing view.

  6. Lifelogic
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Meanwhile we have:- EU threat to withhold Britain’s budget rebate. Thanks goodness we are leaving,.Why does anyone one want to remain in an anti-democratic club ruled by people like this?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/17/eu-threat-withhold-britains-budget-rebate-brexit-bill-wrangle/?WT.mc_id=e_DM589692&WT.tsrc=email&etype=Edi_FAM_New_AEM_Recipient&utm_source=email&utm_medium=Edi_FAM_New_AEM_Recipient_2017_11_18&utm_campaign=DM589692

    • stred
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      In that case, as advised here, we should deduct our rebate from further payments, like tenants deduct the last months rent in case the landlord doesn’t return it. Fat chance with Treezer the Appeazer in charge. She will probably give them an advance on the nation’s credit card.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

        Indeed.

      • ian wragg
        Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

        But we’re dealing with politicians here. Logic is that we deduct the rebate from the final payment but that is too complicated for Westminster.
        We also have the so called transition period after March 2019 when we will still be subject to the ECJ and EU law. That sounds like an extension. Just what is going to happen in this 2 years or will we ask for another extension in 2021 ad infinitum, therefore staying in the EU just standing by the exit.
        There is no wonder the rebels don’t want a fixed date for leaving.
        We can only pray for a NO DEAL when there will be no transition just freedom.
        I wouldn’t want to be a politician standing for re election if the budget clobbers taxpayers and Mrs. May whistles up £50 billion to pay Brussels.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted November 18, 2017 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

          It seem they are to attack private pensions yet again!

      • Hope
        Posted November 18, 2017 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        Also our share of EU assets still not discussed. All this should be deducted from the last two year contributions. Davis and May still conditioning our minds with their capitulation. First evidence of this was the Florence speech written by the EU!

        Cameron had his Bloomberg speech, caved in and led to tell us he reformed the EU! The utter hate faced cheek. Maynon the road to doing the same. All bodies on track with project fear to show us that she achieved more than expected which China a bad deal and to remain tied to the EU. Traitor MPs not wanting a leave date in the hope of changing our minds.

      • Timaction
        Posted November 18, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        No need to say anymore on Ms May’s competence. It’s there for all to see. How many more offers in advance of EU movement on any deal does she need? They’ll keep banking them and ask for more. Are our politico’s really this bad or is it a pretence?
        Please let me know when Ms May is selling her car or house and I’ll be there!!

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      Hang on, we have been told by Andrew Tyrie and others that we never actually send over the money which is rebated, and so it is incorrect to include it in our gross contribution to the EU budget …

      From September:

      http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2017/09/18/how-complicated-is-brexit/#comment-889316

      “I’ve just been watching the BBC’s Daily Politics with a right ding-dong between the presenter, an increasingly cross Jo Coburn, and a very calm Iain Duncan Smith, with the former claiming that our EU budget rebate money never leaves the country each year and should not be counted into our gross annual payments to the EU, but the latter pointing out that it is not an upfront discount each year but a rebate paid in arrears.”

      Now in November we have further proof that IDS was correct, and also the Leave figure for the gross contribution was correct, because otherwise how could the EU Commission be threatening to withhold the final rebate payment?

    • Oggy
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Just another reason why it’s time we left this vile political nest of vipers called the EU asap. I despair more and more each day with the noises coming from TM and DD. It’s time we had someone with some bottle who realises negotiating with the EU is a waste of time and just tell the EU to go forth and multiply.

  7. formula57
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Rejoicing at the possibilities for more debt given the sleight of hand that “….removes Treasury concerns that more Housing Association borrowing impedes reducing state borrowing as a percentage of GDP, one of the government’s chosen targets” is all fine but why stop there?

    Better would be to have the Treasury first accept all the debt then through the secondary market have the Bank of England buy it all with money newly created (it can be called QE). As you know, the cunning plan then is to offset liability and asset and voila! – target ratios improved and free new housing, even if it becomes stock to assist foreign money launderers in their endeavours.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Or don’t disguise it. 1930s New Zealand Social/State Credit – create the money, build the houses – an alternative approach to the debt mechanism (to directing resources).

      [The motivation is of course different, UK is near an inefficient capacity maximum due to resource misallocation due to ZIRP and QE. Redirecting resources to where they are needed might be reasonable in the circumstances, but the circumstances of 10 years of mispriced credit distorting all markets should not have been allowed to happen]

  8. Alan Hill
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Maybe we need to encourage new forms of tenure, for instance lifetime leases.

  9. Duncan
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Stop using the private sector taxpayer to improve or enhance the political fortunes of your party. It is evident to all that the only reason this is an issue is because hordes of young, naive people voted for the one party that promised more free lunches at the last election. Labour will do and say anything to get elected. If this means offering the world then fine. That does not mean that my party should respond in kind

    The issue here is not affordable housing for purchase but affordable housing for purchase in a desirable location. Young people, who happen to be voters, possess a well developed sense of entitlement. They believe, and it’s been rammed into them by leftist propaganda, that they are entitled to something. They want to buy an affordable property in a exclusive area. Well, I’m sorry but that’s pie in the sky nonsense but we have politicians today who refuse to speak the truth and simply pander to the whims and screams of activists and the media

    Housing is only an issue because it’s been turned into a political issue by politicians for political purposes. I resent that deeply and I resent my taxes being used to finance the political ambitions of political parties

    If you want affordable homes then go and live in the unfashionable north. There’s a plentiful supply at cheap prices or is the north simply uncoup?

  10. Denis Cooper
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    On the news this morning a complaint that wicked developers are ripping up trees at a record rate and they are not being replaced. There was no mention of the constantly increasing need for homes for a population which is being expanded year after year in consequence of uncontrolled and unlimited immigration from abroad.

    I can’t say for sure about the politics of this complaint but in my experience many people who care about the natural environment have been seduced by the EU, so presumably they think the supposedly essential and very welcome newcomers from the rest of the EU should be content to pitch tents in ancient woodlands rather than expect houses.

    As I pointed out a couple of days ago:

    http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2017/11/16/11pm-29th-march-2019/#comment-901043

    according to a recent study the enhancement of per capita GDP through immigration from the rest of the EU is negligible, of the order of 0.1%.

    Which has indeed been claimed before, long ago in 2007:

    https://www.migrationwatchuk.org/press-release/148

    “New figures out today reveal that, on the Government’s own figures, the benefit to each member of the native population of the UK from immigration is worth about 4p a week – or less than the equivalent of a small Mars bar a month.”

    And as I pointed out yesterday:

    http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2017/11/17/david-davis-was-right-to-urge-the-eu-to-engage-on-the-future-relationship-for-their-own-sake/#comments

    just the cost of the increase in commuting times over the past ten years corresponds to about 0.7% of GDP, wiping out most of the 1% of GDP gain for the UK economy through the EU Single Market.

    And yet we still have Remoaners saying that we should stay in the EU Single Market with its indivisible “four freedoms”, or alternatively try to join EFTA to try to stay in the EEA and remain constrained by all four of those “four freedoms”, including the freedom of movement of persons, and then welcome as many millions of immigrants as may choose to continue to come from those other countries.

  11. Peter Parsons
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Shift taxation away from current taxes to Land Value Tax. Once the housebuilders start paying tax on land they will start building quicker as it will give them an incentive to get the land off their books.

    By introducing a locally set (by local councils) Land Value Tax, you could scrap Council Tax, Business Rates, Stamp Duty on property transactions, Section 106 payments, the Community Infrastructure Levy and the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings.

    Six taxes and surcharges scrapped to be replaced with one fairer one. Surely a good idea.

  12. am
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Good move by ONS and GOV.
    A side that needs looked at is how much of the materials involved in the build will be brought in from the EU. The British abandoned a lot of building materials manufacturing to the Dutch and Germans. UK manufacturing suffered as a result and people ended up not working in factories with good wages making building products but working in MacDonalds making burgers.

    • miami.mode
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      Governments sometimes do not seem to understand the effect of recessions, often caused by their policies, on industry. The building industry is usually hit hardest in any downturn and companies have to undertake rapid solutions.

      Fixed costs invariably stay similar to when there is a boom and therefore the variable costs have to be addressed which normally means a drastic cut in the labour force and possibly complete closure. In many instances if a plant or factory closes it is almost impossible to re-instate it in any way. It’s all about staying solvent and how desperate the government is to keep the business going (see the banks in 2008 for reference).

  13. Anonymous
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I’m afraid some Tories have been using this as a way to posture heroically against the older generation.

    The real problem is mass immigration, not baby boomers hogging everything for themselves as insinuated by the establishment.

    Brexit wasn’t a sudden revolt but exasperation after years of trying time and again to tell successive governments that we can’t cope with mass immigration.

    Unbelievably the culprit is the NIMBY, according to everything we read – mass immigration barely gets a mention.

  14. Denis Cooper
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    “The government should also bring forward its proposals for a new migration policy for post Brexit.”

    Well, first things first; once we have regained control of immigration from the EU as well as from the rest of the world then we will be in a position to decide what our new immigration policy shall be. I don’t think it’s necessarily helpful to start arguing about the new policy until we have established that we will be legally capable of having our own independent policy, and that means until we have defeated the Remoaners like Anna Soubry and Chuka Umunna who want to keep us in, or effectively bound to, the EU’s Single Market with its indivisible “four freedoms”.

    Once again I hark back to the reality of plans such as staying in the EEA, with or without joining EFTA as a necessary preliminary:

    http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2017/11/13/the-cbi-gives-bad-advice-again-on-the-eu/#comment-900482

    “The first point to be made is that the EFTA we might consider joining now is not governed by the same treaty as the EFTA we helped to found in 1960 … ”

    And so forth.

    • Timaction
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. You know from the legacies how wonderful all those minimum wage migrants are, cause they say so! The fact they cost us £3000 each and it means severe overcrowding, severe strain on our health, education, housing and other public services is a mere bagatelle. Our culture and history is irrelevant and we need these people to keep our young people out of starter jobs, social housing. Who else would wash our cars and sell big issues in our high streets?
      The games up Mr Redwood it’s time for action NOT words and talk of policy. Out of the EU we only need one migration policy, just get on with it!

  15. Fedupsoutherner
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I don’t know what we are all concerned about. If we are to believe the Remainiacs then most EU citizens in the UK will be leaving in their droves and, hey presto, we have our housing stock instantly increased. Of course this will only happen if the EU itself wants a bad deal for its own citizens!!

  16. James Doran
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    If you want cheaper houses then relax the planning laws to make more land available and lower the cost of it. Then reduce the cost of making an application by not loading the process with access statements, bat surveys, energy use predictions and the like. Then stop driving the costs up with requirements for maximum wattage of light fittings, minimum size of rooms, mandatory bicycle storage areas etc. Remember that the most popular houses in the country, 1930s three-bed semis, pre-date the Town and Country Planning Act and were built in their thousands with minimum regulation.

    Then you must remember that no government will do this. For If they reduce the cost of new houses significantly then the value of existing houses will fall also. Imagine the outcry from homeowners and the political damage. That’s because as a people we want houses cheap to buy that subsequently rise in value. That’s a non sequitur.

  17. alan jutson
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    The Government should not be building houses full stop.

    Yes to Local Authorities building houses to rent, but then they should be excluded from right to buy at a discount by the tenants, otherwise what is the point of them being built.

    If government wants to encourage subsidise house purchase with subsidies, then why charge Stamp Duty at all ?

    As I have said before, Re introduce MIRAS with a sensible Mortgage limit, that helps everyone.

    Agree with Stred and Lifelogic about Bat surveys, soil reports, etc etc. let the purchasers of the land do their own surveys if they are interested.

    How about the new version of 106 agreements that now account for a very significant cost on each house built.

    The most important driver of house prices rises is demand (population increases) and unrealistic low interest rates.

  18. Richard1
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Sir James Dyson was interesting on migration. He said that engineering graduates and phds from non EU countries are chucked out in graduation. He argued with Damian Green over this and Mr Green said if they didn’t kick them out all sorts of bogus colleges and PhD programmes would appear. It seems that the attitude of Mrs May and Mr Green on the issue of highly qualified young foreigners is exceptionally negative and very damaging. We need radical change in this area, starting with removing students from the immigration numbers.

    Separately, Sir James also pointed out that his company has already fallen off the cliff as they manufacture outside the EU and re-import, yet he sees good growth.

  19. Oggy
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Dr Redwood, Your last but short sentence is your only reference to immigration putting pressure on housing.
    It is plain to see that 300.000 a year inward net migration for 10 years is the root of the problem, not just for housing, but schools, GP’s, and hospitals. There should be large signs put up at all ports and airports – ‘SORRY WE’RE FULL !’
    When is the government going to get to grips with this problem ?

  20. Edward2
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Whilst there are many steps we can take to increase the numbers of homes being built each year and there are many good policies being suggested on this site, we will never be able to build enough at the current rate of population growth.
    A new city is needed every year or to use another analogy, 1000 new tower blocks are needed every year.
    Just to keep up.

  21. Dave Andrews
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Any debate on house-building needs to include the question of immigration, otherwise it is incomplete. I remain unconvinced that more houses should be built (especially at public expense) just to house net immigration.
    After many years of net substantial immigration, can we have a corresponding period of net emigration?

  22. Bert Young
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Simply – control and restrict immigration and substantially reduce stamp tax .

  23. HardyB
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Didn’t we have this subject before and just recently?

    Don’t know what we can add that will make any difference- truth is we have no real government at the moment- just enough probably to put a budget together- the rest of our government effort is consumed by infighting and the brexit thing- so what’s the point in discussing anything else

  24. Nig l
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    No argument about the need for more housing but the overkill from HMG reeks of a panic response to Corbyn’s popularity with the millenials and we are now seeing the start of the usual don’t blame us spin by suggesting it is the baby boomers who are at fault.

    At the same time we hear there are hundreds of thousands of people here illegally with the Home Office inept and chronically understaffed, no doubt these people eventually will want housing, we hear of a massive system problem with a key benefit payment resulting in tens of thousands, maybe more suffering financial hardship. The independent adviser at the time of setting it up said it should not go live until everything was embedded. Guess what? HMG ignored that and apart from the human misery, I suppose that will cost another odd billion or three to,put right, and finally, yes I know it’s the law, but I see some of my taxes are now going to help yoga classes and coconut farmers.

    When is any government going to stop wasting its citizens money?

  25. Epikouros
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    The greatest cause for the lack of suitable housing is the cost of planning and the incentive to use habitable property as a low risk highly remunerative investment to a degree that is not economically healthy. Planning is so ridiculously burdened with draconian restrictions that land prices are extortionate. Not helped by government policies subsidising and perversely taxes concurrently for purchases made worse by Philip Hammond’s last budget changes to stamp duty.

    Housing associations are a political solution intent on increasing the supply of cheaper housing and has met with some success but at an unnecessary cost. Not surprising in that it is restrained and administered by bureaucratic and monopolistic control and practices. Other solutions such as government controlled selection of where and how new towns are designed and built is also a political solution that will suffer from the same deficiencies as those that afflict housing associations.

    In fact all government inspired solutions to the housing markets are wasteful and inefficient. The solution of course is to allow producers and consumers through a free market to come up with the right solutions. Not possible of course because of the closed minds of so many politicians and the public and not at all with our current planning laws and the demands of the Treasury and vested interests.

  26. MikeP
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    This whole debate wasn’t helped by the Communities Secretary choosing to blame one group of people, baby-boomers, for the current housing shortage. Many of us are doing more than our fair share in keeping ourselves and our kids housed and afloat – often without State aid – in difficult circumstances and, ahem, voting Conservative (usually).

    We seem to have got ourselves into a perfect storm on housing:
    – UK is an attractive place for work, welfare and welcoming place to be #despitebrexit
    – so far too many migrants, concentrated in inner city areas where housing is expensive
    – that exacerbated by a trend for larger families than might otherwise be the case
    – in any event population growth outstripping housing, road and amenity developments
    – recent trends to build on or near flood plains with all the expected consequences
    – developers having the upper hand on Councils, by not releasing their share of road development cash until they’ve sold and earned all the profit of their developments – Wokingham’s Southern Distribution road is a classic example, 2020/21 if we’re lucky, great!?
    – as you rightly point out, hanging on to old unserviceable buildings in listed status, not helped by general sloth in the Planning process generally.
    – Developers still hanging on to their land banks.

    Amid all that I remain confused over who is telling the truth when numbers of housebuilds are quoted in Parliament. Since 2010, Government’s track record is either the best or the worst depending on who you listen to. Do you have the facts John ?

  27. Bob
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    The problem is caused by mass immigration. Without dealing with that, the problem will continue until the country is bankrupted by the welfare costs.

    The UK’s generous welfare benefits and lax immigration controls are mostly to blame for attracting so many economic opportunists into the country, and that’s just the legal ones.

    There is plenty of profit in illegal subletting, with with illegal immigrants living in multiple occupation properties, even to the extent of bed sharing on a “shift” basis. These landlords flout regulations and obviously do not pay tax on their ill gotten gains.

  28. BOF
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I understand that house building has increased.

    Tony Blair dismantled border controls and successive governments and Home Secretaries have failed miserably in controlling immigration, including up to the present one.

    I do not believe we have a housing crisis but we do have a population crisis but I will not be holding my breath on any progress there.

  29. Ed Mahony
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Can the government please ensure high standards in the BEAUTY of buildings and not just their usefulness (important as that is).

    I was recently walking through a dump of a town (architectually-speaking) in Hampshire until I came across 6 beautiful, modern houses built in the Queen Anne style. I guessed they would have cost no more than many monstrosities built today. I’m with Prince Charles on this and i don’t think he’s out of touch or indulgent on this at all.

    Man was built for beauty, whether a King or a pauper, and the beauty of buildings is good for the soul as well as building up a sense of British patriotism in our towns and cities where there is far, far too much ugliness in the architecture and street layouts. It doesn’t require lots of extra money just a bit more IMAGINATION.

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      (and you can create beautiful houses, streets, towns and cities without being twee either – and it’s all down, ultimately, to imagination/education NOT money, important money is of course).

      ‘We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.’ — Winston Churchill

      ‘I call architecture frozen music’ — Goethe

      • rose
        Posted November 18, 2017 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

        Bravo Ed. And beautiful 18th century style terraces can house far more people than hideous dangerous skyscrapers. Unfortunately not many people in power seem to know that.

        The idea that we mustn’t look back is a philistine one. In the Renaiassance they looked back 2,000 years, and did so again here in the 18th and 19th centuries. I would go so far as to say there has been no real civilization in the sense of good architecture, music, and art, since the Great War, precisely because of this wrong headed notion that we mustn’t look back.

        • rose
          Posted November 18, 2017 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

          Sorry, Renaissance.

        • Ed Mahony
          Posted November 19, 2017 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

          @Rose,

          ‘And beautiful 18th century style terraces can house far more people than hideous dangerous skyscrapers’ – well said.

          ‘The idea that we mustn’t look back is a philistine one. In the Renaiassance they looked back 2,000 years.’ Agree completely.

          ‘I would go so far as to say there has been no real civilization in the sense of good architecture, music, and art, since the Great War’ – I agree. I think the modern world has seriously drifted from the idea of beauty. Something those in ancient Greece and Rome, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and later cherished.

          If everyone can do their small bit to try and get government to think about this subject and how beauty is good for the 1. the soul 2. patriotism and 3. the economy (it requires people with special skills, education and training to create things of real beauty that we can create here in the UK as well as export abroad).

          • Ed Mahony
            Posted November 19, 2017 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

            ‘good for the soul’ isn’t just about individual fulfilment, it also affects society as a whole because happy people will work better, get on better with their neighbours, be more healthy saving money on NHS etc, be more charitable and patriotic. Etc … Of course, beauty alone, won’t solve all our problems! But it is an important one to consider.

  30. Peter A
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure what “affordable” really means. Bravo to Stoke-on-Trent where houses are on sale for just £1. But anyway I hope “affordable” does not mean cities ringed with high-rise apartment blocks, as per Socialist dreamland. We are surely advanced beyond the 1960’s(?). Modern housing costs, and the way to make homes affordable is for buyers to earn sufficient. The only way for that to happen is to have an Economy that is working, the opposite of Corbynism.

    • a-tracy
      Posted November 20, 2017 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      They actually cost £60,000 to fix up. Which is about what the 2 and 3 bed terraces are going for in that area.

  31. Peter A
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Instead of piecemeal tinkering, why not plan and facilitate a string of new towns along the route of HS2 out of London? Some future vision is needed, not the endless half-baked promises and muddle.

  32. Prigger
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    No point. The majority of MPs tell us Brexit will lead to a cliff edge. That the EU economies will march on with a skip in their step. That our economy will lead us to devastation.
    This will mean from their own standpoint far less immigration and a net reduction on our population for years to come as a return to EU nations of many of our present EU -UK based people. Also they are young and we will not benefit by an increasing number of babies.
    Therefore Labour’s insistence and much Tory noise for building more housing is in direct contradiction to what they believe is going to happen. Very irresponsible people indeed lacking equilibrium of thought.

  33. Andy
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    There are two key factors in the housing crisis. Life-expectancy and how we life. We are living longer and more of us are living alone. These two factors, and not immigration, are the primary causes of the housing crisis. They have changed quickly too. The number of single household has skyrocketed in recent years as has life expectancy. Housing policy has not kept up.

    To fix it you need to build on the Green Belt. No, this does not mean concreting over our country. A recent study found just 5.9% of the U.K. was built up. It simply means recognising this major demographic shift in how we live requires a major response. But our Westminster politicians are all too gutless to tell you the truth – so they’ll pathetically go along with those blaming immigrants.

    • rose
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      As people broke up into single person households, the number of converted flats and bedsitters rocketed, to cater for this social change. The number of existing family houses consequently declined. There were others built in their place, but these were pokier.

      I don’t think you can deny the effects of greatly increased demand for all categories of housing as a consequence of greatly increasing the population through unprecedented levels of immigration and the much higher birthrate that accompanied that.

    • Edward2
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      You haven’t read Migration Watch latest research report.
      It says the majority of the increasing demand for homes is due to immigration.

      • Andy
        Posted November 18, 2017 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

        Migration Watch is not a credible source.

        Try peer reviewed research rather than the rantings of a bunch of loud-mouthed bigoted pensioners who haven’t got over the fact that it is no longer 1950.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted November 19, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

          Migration Watch is a far more credible source than you.

        • stred
          Posted November 19, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

          Could I ask which university or school did you go to?

        • Edward2
          Posted November 19, 2017 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

          Nonsense, their reports have been proved right over decades.
          Your rant is a poor response.
          Several million new arrivals in ten years has had no effect on the demand for housing?
          Stop virtue signalling and open your eyes.

  34. Denis Cooper
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    So, JR, what kind of “transition” would this be?

    https://euobserver.com/uk-referendum/139912

    “He said the UK wanted a transition period of “about two years” after it left the EU in March 2019 in which everything would stay the same.”

    Totally ridiculous, David Davis should look up the definition of “transition”.

    It would not be any kind of “transition”, it would just be an extension of EU membership de facto if not de jure.

  35. Ousted
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    14th November 2017 Migration Debate Scottish Parliament , Holyrood,repeated today on BBC Parliament 18th Nov 2017.

    The Shadow Economy Secretary Dean Lockhart ( Conservative ) had all of 9 people in their House for his speech not counting their equivalent of Mr Speaker( Presiding Officer ) and entourage. Well Scotland may well need more immigration if nine MSPs is all she can muster.

    Alisdair Allan, SNP,MSP, International Development / Europe Minister spoke next and miraculously Holyrood received an instant inward migration of SNP MSPs in seconds to the Chamber making the headcount 36. Not bad out of a theoretical attendance of 129 MSPs on the payroll.In industry of course the absentees would be sacked or the Factory ( Holyrood ) would close down as being unprofitable… with its workers declared workshy and glassbacks.

    Mr Alasdair Allan stated that the Scottish Parliament was planning for a massive influx of migrants in the next ten years. It seems the SNP secretly does believe in the UK economy post Brexit as booming in attracting so many settlers. Surprise!

    In the meantime it is obvious the lack of SNP MSPs in Holyrood was not because of their emigration to foreign realms as part of a Brain Drain so prevalent in the times of the late Labour PM Harold Wilson.

  36. Mark B
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Good evening.

    A long piece by our kind host. And one in which, if we did not know better, could have been penned by Jeremy Cornyn MP or one of his acolytes. Government interference has caused this mess and building more homes is not the answer to this problem. Only the last sentence seems to half heartedly wants to address it.

    The problem for the government is that it has created numerous ponzi schemes. It has become addicted Stamp Duty / Tax and, having raised it so high now faces the prospect of actually now losing money as people can no longer afford to move.

    The government has created a real mess of this market and, as they say, when in a hole it is usually a good idea to stop digging. But politicians want to be ‘seems to be doing something and the PM has a very good track record of doing just that.

  37. Dennis
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, you and all the other MPs when seeing a huge whole in the bottom of their bath tubs would never think of mending the hole but would organise and pay to have extra water pipes laid in, using more water that necessary of course – “waste? What’s that”?

  38. ian
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    How does it go, couldn’t organize a piss up in a brewery.

  39. Ron Olden
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    BBC LIES

    BBC ‘NEWS’ Website
    November 19th 2017

    Does the BBC employ and train people to construct forms of words deliberately intended to mislead?

    They falsely state that Mr Hammond said today that ‘there are no unemployed people’.

    What they have actually done however, is extracted five consecutive words from a sequence of three sentences, and made it into a different meaning compared with what he actually said.

    Mr Hammond was being questioned about the effects of new technology on jobs and said:-

    “I remember 20 years ago we were worrying about what was going to happen to the million shorthand typists in Britain as the personal computer took over.”

    “Well, nobody has a shorthand typist these days, but where are all these unemployed people?”

    “There are no unemployed people because we have created 3.5m new jobs since 2010.”

    Anyone who speaks basic English will know that Mr Hammond was obviously referring to there being no ADDITIONAL unemployment arising from the replacement of shorthand typists (and anyone else) as a consequence of new technology.

    Mr Hammond is obviously aware that there are still 1.4 Million people registered as unemployed, as it’s his Treasury that’s paying out the benefits. I’ve heard him giving the figures umpteen times.

    The unemployment rate is now only just over half what it was when Labour left office in 2010 and has fallen sharply since we voted to leave the EU. That’s the exact opposite of what the great sages at the BBC and in the Labour Party told us would happen if we ceased borrowing ourselves to immediate destruction, or voted Leave.

    In fact the number is lower than it’s been in the entire lifetime of the majority of people living today.

    The 1.4 million people registered as ‘unemployed’ are people between jobs for a short time, (you have to register to get benefit, so why wouldn’t you?), seasonal workers who like working for only (say) 7 months of the year, people living in geographical localities where it’s hard to get a job, but, they either can’t afford to, or don’t want to relocate to somewhere where there are labour shortages, and a not insignificant number of people who prefer not to work, and are satisfied living on a small amount of Benefit and have their Social Housing rent paid for by the state.

    If I lived in a nice locality by the seaside, was close to retirement age, had my Rent and Council Tax paid, and received various other out of work benefits, I would almost certainly conclude that I’d rather live on £73.10 a week ESA, rather than work for the National Living Wage and be responsible for all my outgoings .

    Not everyone is materialistic and ambitious, and not everyone is employable.

    And don’t forget the undoubted numbers of people who are ‘unemployed’ but actually doing a bit of paid work ‘cash in hand’.

    We don’t actually ever hear anything from Corbyn about unemployment any more. But Labour has chosen to accept the gift of this BBC smear to join in with a bit of childish abuse.

    Normally the BBC and the Labour Party avoid talking about unemployment because it contradicts their propaganda that we need unlimited migration to fill unskilled job vacancies.

    The usual story they pump out is that we are so short of labour that we need to attract large numbers of migrants who have no skills some of whom can’t even speak any English.

    In any case, the history of the world has shown that new technology ALWAYS creates more jobs than it replaces.

    Yet decade after decade and despite centuries of evidence to the contrary, Luddites maintain the opposite

    I remember reading a report in 1980 published by the (then) ASTMS Trade Union stating that by the year 2000 we would have 20 Million (!!), unemployed and would have to ‘ration’ work.

    I can remember it because it was diligently reported by the press as unanswerable fact, and I wrote a letter (which a newspaper published) explaining why it was rubbish.

    I also remember someone replying to my letter saying that I was ‘living in cloud cuckoo land’, I must be a ‘Tory’ (the all purpose term of abuse which the Left assume immediately ends an argument in their favour), and that the ASTMS report was ‘obviously’ (sic) correct because they were ‘experts’.

    In fact they were not ‘experts’. They were a Trade Union campaigning for fewer hours work for more pay.

    By 2000 however, unemployment was not 20 Million. We were, instead, we on the verge of being flooded by migrants because there weren’t enough people here to fill the vast number of new jobs being created.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-42043710

  40. Stred
    Posted November 20, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    They are still saying that that Boris said IN IRAN when he did not.

  41. margaret
    Posted November 20, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    We still need to build up, but there isn’t a need to high rise everything.

  42. a-tracy
    Posted November 24, 2017 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    John, when we take in Asylum seekers do we ask them all what skills they have? Are none of them joiners, brickies, plasterers, gardeners, cleaners, painters. I see some of the homes we put them in on the tv falling to pieces for want of basic repairs that my husband would do himself without any technical training, decorating and cleaning and wonder why they aren’t given the products to do this themselves? Like foodbanks I’m sure if local councils opened up an area to take in left over and unwanted paint, tools, excess wallpaper etc. they could spruce places up themselves.
    I’ve been told fifty Syrian families are being moved to Stoke on Trent,
    wouldn’t it be a good idea to put the men and women into clean-up teams, use some of the women to childcare in groups so that the other women can work to tidy up properties that can’t be used because they’ve been left in a mess and fix up properties, gardening if they have the correct skills?
    Is there a reason we shouldn’t expect some work for housing and other benefits?
    I’ve a guy at work with five children, living in a cramped tiny 3-bed rental, he can’t get a social house he’s been on the list four years. No-one is offering him a home for free, we expect British nationals (other than single mothers) to work to put a roof over their heads, ensure their homes, contribute. Is there a law against it?

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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