Saturday, September 03, 2011

What housing shortage?

Panellists on Radio 4's Any Questions? and Charles Moore in this week's Spectator magazine agree (with lots of others, it seems) that there is a housing shortage in the UK and the only question is how to satisfy it. I beg to differ, or at least think we can question the assumption.

1. "According to The Empty Homes Agency, there are an estimated 870,000 empty homes in the UK and enough empty commercial property to create 420,000 new homes", according to the BBC website section on Homes.

2. There are over 245,000 registered second homes in the UK, according to Schofields home insurers.

3. The 2001 census showed that average home occupation in England and Wales had declined from 10 years before, from 2.51 to 2.36 persons.

4. According to the official Housing Survey of 2008/9, 7.7 million households were couples with no dependent children; there were also 6.2 million single person households (up from 3.8 million in 1981).

5. The same survey showed that the average (mean) dwelling had 2.8 bedrooms, rising to 3.0 bedrooms for owner-occupiers. Fewer than 3% of households were defined as overcrowded.

6. According to a 2005 Home Office study, there were 310,000 - 570,000 illegal immigrants in the UK, a figure which MigrationWatch thought to be underestimated by 15,000 - 85,000. This is a separate issue from the 8.7% of the population who are economic migrants to the UK, and whose real net contribution to the economy (after taking into account all benefits to which they and their dependants may be entitled) is a matter of debate.

We are not in the situation we faced in 1945, when soldiers returning home from war squatted on military sites and even caves. The modern "housing shortage" is an arbitrary notion.


Tattyfalarr said...

"shortage of housing people want to live in" would be far more accurate.

Sackerson said...

I am not a millionaire, therefore I have a money shortage.

Mark Wadsworth said...

There's no shortage of housing if you compare it that way.

The problem is, if you are young and on a normal wage, there is an incredible shortage of housing (which is easily measurable by the fact that you have to pay twice as much for a house as it costs to built).

It is no consolation to tenants or potential buyers that other people have got spare bedrooms coming out of their ears as those bedrooms are not up for sale or rent.

So, either we allow more houses to be built or even betterl we encourage people to use housing more efficiently, e.g. by replacing taxes on incomes with taxes on land values.

Sackerson said...

We need a housing and banking bust, preferably caused by mortgage debt forgiveness.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

oh ffs. LVT again. This dreary monomania of Mr Wadsworth is not the solution to our problems.

All LVT would end up doing is making everyone a tenant of the state. Sackerson is right - we need a housing/banking bust.

Whenever I hear the notion "replacing taxes on incomes with taxes on land values" I think of Fred Goodwin. He's worth millions yet he lives in a relatively modest house in Morningside. Taxing the bastard's income is the only way to collect a fair slice of his cash. Income tax is preferable to forcing doddery old grannies out of their homes in the twilight of their lives because they can't afford swingeing taxes on a property they acquired years before on their own - already taxed - income.

And when I hear LVTers moaning that property owners just want to maintain exclusive use of their land and deny it to others, I think 2 things:
1. Amen to that, property rights being a cornerstone of liberty
2. I think I'll park my car on your drive and see if you are still so fervent about allowing everyone use of the 'common' land.

Wildgoose said...

Re LVT... and yet we already have a very crude (and inaccurate) Land Tax called Council Tax that provides something between 30 and 50% of local government funding.

And yes, I am perfectly well aware that Council Tax is based upon the property and not the underlying land, but land is a major component of that price.

Perhaps more to the point, it can't be avoided by a clever accountant in the same way that the rich avoid paying their fair share (as a percentage) of Income Tax.

No, LVT isn't a complete panacea, and No, it can't realistically replace all forms of taxation.

But that doesn't mean that it isn't a better tax than almost all others, nor that it shouldn't be implemented.

Mark Wadsworth said...

SW, congratulations for playing the Poor Widow Bogey for the eighteen zillionth time Jesus H Christ what sort of paucity of imagination do you Home-Owner-ists have?

Can you not envisage some sort of exemptions, deferments, discounts or higher state pension? Or that perhaps the Poor Widow's children chip in to help out their old Mum?

As to Fred, the only reason that he and his ilk could make their millions and bankrupt the banks and cause a major recession was precisely because we don't have LVT to keep house prices low and stable. Trying to tax it back off him is shutting the door after the horse has bolted. If I were in charge, he wouldn't have earned a penny in the first place.