04 August 2005

The War on Housing

Today sees the 50th anniversary of Britain's biggest problem - the Green Belt.

Almost everything that is deeply wrong with Britain - the low birth rate, transport, even the poor Test performance - can be traced at least in part back to this piece of authoritarian stupidity. Whereas for centuries the bulk of the population suffered in inadequate housing because of the cost of building, now technology has made building cheaper than ever, and the cost of housing is higher than ever because an alliance of the powerful and the environmental primitivists cannot tolerate the thought of the plebs having comfortable and spacious accomodation. Remember
the report that showed that more than two-thirds of those Americans officialy in poverty had more than two rooms per person?

To rehash an earlier posting, the great illusion that the Green Belt policy was based on is that a large proportion of Britain is already built up. If you examine the land use statistics, something like 90-95% of the land area is undeveloped. While countries like the USA or Australia have, on paper, much lower average population density, that in practice includes vast useless deserts or grazing land - the presence or absence of such are not really relevant to the urban or suburban masses.

There are obvious reasons why the War on Housing has been so much more successful than, say, the War on Some Drugs, but the contrast is striking. Articles about record low street prices for recreational drugs are almost as common as articles about record high prices for houses. Meanwhile, Prescott struts around, appointing one spot or another as the site for a few new houses - mostly, the vast tracts of land being industrially and unprofitably farmed to produce unwanted food being too valuable, unvalued sites such as school playing fields or inner-city "brownfield" meadows which are the only bits of greenery some inner-city children ever see.

1 comment:

Neil Craig said...

I agree with you on this absolutely.

Further building regulations have effectively outlawed mass off site manufacturing. If your car had to be handbuilt in you garage rather than in Sunderland think what it would cost & how well it would run.

A US senator estimated some years ago that houses could cost 40% of current prices if the regulations were scrapped. This being the UK & years later I would estimate 20%. Look at the number of TV programmes about unskilled people adding 20K to their homes - don't try that on your car.

The other downside of this is that there exists an awful lot of people who believe their life savings are in bricks & mortar & would be terrified of such a price drop even though the real worth of property is unaffected by its paper worth.