Housing shortage

Matthew Parris writes with typical elegance on the subject of housing, but he is only half right. See his article here

The problem is his suggestion that demand is being driven by investment buyers. Demand is being driven by a shortage of supply, both for purchase and for rent. That is why buying is such a good investment. Buy-to-let investments are a welcome diversification of the housing market, making private rented property - almost extinguished by rent control from the sixties to the eighties - available.

Where Matthew is absolutely right is in comparing the current situation to the prices and incomes tinkering of the seventies. It is government policy which ensures that housing is in short supply, and so now the government needs a 'strategy' to cope with this 'crisis' of its own making. The problem is the array of planning and building regulations (which also, incidentally, push development onto flood plains. Duh!).

Planning controls restrict the availability of new housing and building regulations restrict the development of new ways of building housing.

The result is that we are not building enough houses. The government's plans are likely to make this worse. Declaring that housing needs to be 'affordable' will not help if there is still not enough of it.

If a house lasts, on average, 100 years, we need to replace 1% of our stock each year just to stand still. We have not hit that level ONCE in the last 20 years.

And that would be to stand still. It would take no account of growing population, decreasing average household size, increasing numbers of people with second homes, or the backlog caused by years of crazy policy.

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