Readers respond to Britain’s chronic shortage of affordable housing with solutions of their own
Larry Elliott suggests five steps to fix the housing market (Britain’s broken housing market – and how to fix it, 9 October) which include Kate Barker’s idea of “acquiring” large sites abutting urban areas at a modest premium to their existing use. That would effectively part-nationalise development value and might help supply, although the Tories wouldn’t do it because they reversed Labour’s two attempts at taxing development value, the Land Commission Act 1967 and the Community Land Act 1975/Development Land Tax 1976. Increased housing supply doesn’t automatically lead to lower prices of course (unless builders were to build at a rate that forced them to drop their own prices, which they wouldn’t) because, as Elliott says, the housing “market” isn’t a market at all in the traditional supply-and-demand sense.
Before more of this crowded country’s open space is concreted over and its amenity value taken from those abutting urban areas, other expedients could be deployed, like penal taxation of empty property and progressive taxation of inherited property wealth, the latter of which continues to snowball for the haves and push prices further beyond the have-nots. Those two measures would do more to bring prices back closer to a manageable multiplier of local earnings and improve the rising generation’s chances of ownership. Whether the banks’ loan books could stand the strain of falling prices – and how hard the Treasury would fight to avoid them – is another question.