The "Pathfinder" project for urban renewal has come in for some criticism, because so far it's meant a net loss of 9,000 homes and many of those whose houses have been demolished have not received sufficient compensation to buy something similar elsewhere (see here and here, with an attempt at more balanced discussion in the Liverpool Daily Post).
I suspect we don't have a housing shortage, but a housing misallocation. There are lots of old people rattling around in houses too large for them, and too expensive for them to maintain properly. And how many million bedrooms have been converted into domestic gyms, games rooms etc? We simply expect far more space than we used to, and so the "shortage" is a function of our choices.
But there is a limit on land space, if we want to retain the capacity to feed ourselves in hard times. Maybe we should review policies on housing, housing benefit, local taxation etc. And the policy of using foreign labour to keep down wage rates, and so create traps for our working and under-classes. And is there a Gramscian plan to undermine the cultural cohesion of the country by means of deliberate negligence in border controls, with the side-effect of worsening the pressure on accommodation?
Governments have a talent for creating problems that will long survive them. After four centuries, Northern Ireland still has its difficulties. And look at Fiji, where a century ago British planters imported Indians for indentured service periods of ten years. By the end of their contractual decade, quite naturally the labourers had married, had children and put down roots in the island. The historical result is festering resentment between ethnic groups, leading to outbursts such as George Speight's rebellion in 2000.
Similarly, covering England's green and pleasant land with concrete, tarmac and brick will also have persistent unpleasant consequences. And is there any way to change it back? Could we put a foot depth of earth along a disused motorway to convert it to arable use? So, new building on agricultural land, flood plains etc is tricky, and now we are seeing some of the problems of brownfield development.
But there's a huge number of houses built in the Thirties that need refurbishment. There may be a boom in plumbers, plasters, electricians and bricklayers; while at the same time we may see growing white-collar unemployment, as a result of outsourced information-processing. Maybe the working class will be victorious, after all, while the chattering classes fill holes in their shoes and jumpers with old copies of the Guardian.
I know it can happen, because it did happen in the Thirties - read Helen Forrester, whose debt-burdened middle-class father made the mistake of leaving London post-Crash, to return to his Liverpool birthplace, where the parish had no statutory obligation to support him. Helen wrote that if the Depression comes again, the things to stock up will be newspapers, razor blades and soap. And in her case, a purse inside her clothes so that her own family couldn't steal her meagre savings.