Saturday, March 17, 2007

Let's Not Build ANY New Houses

Britain needs 5 million new homes and the property market is gridlocked by a massive shortage supply side shortage. Both of these stories explain almost nothing - or, rather, they explain the wrong things. The problems of the British housing market are nothing to do with shortage and everything to do with our sickly obsession with property. This, initially, drives up house prices. These capital gains become fixed as some kind of law of nature in the national psyche. As a result, everybody must own at least one house, preferably several. This creates an entirely artificial housing shortage which we must then solve by destroying more of the landscape with vile developments - British housing design has never been quite so bad. This is seen as virtuous because the legacy of Cathy Come Home still convinces us that building houses is some kind of unarguable social good. And so we build unnecessary houses, burning carbon on a scale which will offset the effects of all the initiatives of our newly green leaders. As James Lovelock always says, 'Save the planet? We never could save the planet.'

10 comments:

  1. This is an obsession in almost every country I have lived in. MacMansions, MacVillages, MacCottages and the like are everywhere there is land available and planning permission can be obtained. Here in Adelaide I was talking to a Developer who is doing an 80 hectare new age housing project, which will have hundreds and hundreds of more and more cars commuting the 1-2 hours to Adelaide, where most of the work is. Public transport was not part of his plan.

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  2. Time was when you knew where you stood as a tenant. You simply looked up Rachman or van Hoogstraten in the phone book, made your mark on a contract, chucked your copy in the bin and sat back until November when your gas supply would be disconnected.

    Nowadays, they're all at it: a new landed gentry of 20something graphic designers and recently-retired lecturers, waving their portfolios at you, winning you over with flat-screen tellies and pointless Oliver Bonas homeware and wanting to be your best bloody mate. One of them even returned my deposit. The git.

    They've completely lost my respect and I blame her.

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  3. It does seem that in the British hierachy of needs we have this strong desire to "own" rather than rent property, perhaps there is a perception that ownership creates a safer and more stable home hence the increased desire?

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  4. This is quite an interesting concept, actually: housing supply is restricted by government meddling, but instead of liberalizing zoning, why don't we reduce demand by voluntarily accepting a lower standard of life?

    Of course, one could apply the same reasoning to solve other problems: why improve medical care, when people could simply resign to illness and early death? why improve education, when people could simply resign to menial jobs?

    Incidentally, I used to think that British housing policy is one of the last remnants of Soviet-style central planning, but now that I live in the former Soviet Union, I realize how unfair that was to Soviet planners: they built homes for the 20th century, not for the 18th.

    Britain does not need 5 million new homes: it needs at least 30 millions -- with 25 millions old homes to be demolished.

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  5. What brilliant analysis...um ..do you own a property Mr. Appleyard ?If so might you not be open to the accusation that you are talking out of your arse...ever so slightly

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  6. It is important to make a distinction between a house and a home. A house is just a pile of bricks (of course, some more pleasing to the eye than others). A home is something far more complex and meaningful. At a very basic level, it provides safety and security. After that, it is quite subjective but tied to notions of identity and place. In an increasingly volatile global marketplace, home ownership helps people anchor themselves in the present and, to a limited degree, define their futures.

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  7. River of deceitMarch 18, 2007 1:08 am

    http://www.amazon.com/Long-Emergency-Converging-Catastrophes-Twenty-First/dp/0871138883

    This is a pretty good read about suburbia after oil-peak. Whether or not Kunstler's predictions are true, you can't help but ponder how short-sighted a species we are.

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  8. I own two, Newmania, and I would own none but I have a wife

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  9. We don't need more new houses (or roads or airports, etc, etc) we need fewer people.

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  10. Ok scabbarduk, are you volunteering for suicide or just sterilisation?

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