In the UK, politicians and hand-wringing professionals from organisations like Shelter are always complaining about ‘Britain’s Housing Crisis’ and that ‘young couples can no longer afford to buy a home’ or ‘greedy buy-to-let landlords are snapping up properties that should go to first-time buyers’ and so on and on and on…
They say that prices have risen so fast that young couples can no longer afford to get on the housing ladder. They say we are in the midst of a ‘HOUSING CRISIS’.
Paxman asked why are our politicians so crap?
Well, in my opinion this is a very local housing crisis and one largely the fault of, to quote a recent brilliant Jeremy Paxman programme, our CRAP politicians. To coin a phrase, I agree with Jeremy. All our politicians and think-tanks etc say that we have to build more homes and they use euphemisms like ‘affordable’ and of course the stupid Labour Party always wants more ‘social’ housing and want to get rid of all those evil landlords.
But as usual all of them fail to see the bigger picture. Although in most parts of South East England house prices are indeed beyond the reach of most first-time buyers and young people are forced to pay very high rents to live in even ordinary accommodation, it’s not like that everywhere in Britain.
So in Camden, one of the fastest appreciating areas in terms of house prices, property is more than 3.5 times as expensive as it was 10 years ago. However, in parts of Liverpool prices are actually 44% LESS than they were 10 years ago! And prices are also actually LESS in parts of Bradford, Hartlepool, Middlesborough and Sunderland. And of course where they have risen, they have not risen nearly as much as in London.
Property prices are driven partly by availability of credit, but also by DEMAND – the demand by people to live in areas of their choice. Part of that choice depends on availability of employment and availability of employment depends on investment, both public and private.
H2O Yes – HS2 No!
The government has totally failed over the years to invest in the North of Britain and to properly incentivise businesses to relocate there. They have failed to build the required infrastructure, particularly railways. Look at the insanity of two current massive government infrastructure projects, HS2 (or H2O as I heard it referred to by an LBC caller) and Heathrow Expansion.
Whilst being wholly in favour of H2O, HS2 on the other hand is an insane project, that even if built will largely benefit the South. And as for Heathrow expansion, that obviously will do nothing at all to boost the economies of northern towns and cities. and everything to make life even more intolerable for those living in and around London. Boris Johnson did promise to lie in front of the bulldozers to stop it but although extremely adept at lying about most things he isn’t going to lie in front of any bulldozers.
If we just continue to try and satisfy the insatiable demand of people to live in London and the South East of England by building more homes we will end up having to build more homes, and then still more homes and so on until the quality of life in the south east becomes intolerable. It’s already impossible to get anywhere easily on our crowded roads and packed trains and no one can get a doctor or hospital appointment within a reasonable space of time.
The sustainable solution
So, instead of bleating on and on about building more affordable homes whilst expanding Heathrow and spending an unimaginable amount of money on HS2, the government should invest properly in the North and offer real financial incentives to industry and business to relocate there. Then employment will increase, young people won’t be forced to relocate to London and the South East to work and the housing crisis will very gradually ease.