The solution to too few homes is more homes. The solution to far too few homes is lots more homes. You might think this is obvious. It is. Yet objections to new building abound and are coming from several quarters, including a quite unscientific movement which argues that building new homes is the problem.
Help me here. Is the argument that building less homes will cause house prices and rents to fall? If so, why don’t we just bulldoze a few estates, cut supply, and see how that feels?
Similarly with rents, the enormous number of objections to build-to-rent (BTR) schemes implies a view that rents will fall if these new rental properties are not built. When objectors say that 1,500 new rental properties will not help people desperately looking for somewhere to live, what is the logic?
We really need to catch ourselves on here and realise that new homes are what the country needs. I understand as much as the next person that there are deep ideological issues with large landlords owning many properties, but if that’s the issue, let’s be honest and say it. If objectors believe that nationalising the new housing stock is the way to go, then okay, let’s have that discussion. But let’s not hide behind faux arguments. And if the objectors have a problem with “the sort of people” who might end up living in their area, why not just say that too and have the conversation?
In urban societies, all property is a patchwork of private renters, public renters, homeowners, large landlords, accidental landlords, co-operative members and various volunteers and charity groups. In some places, a greater fraction of homes is rented, and accommodation is seen as a cost, like electricity. In other places, a greater fraction is owned, and property is seen as an asset.
My own preference for society is to move away from the asset and towards the cost structure, but I appreciate this will take time and is not everyone’s cup of tea.