Stop the housebuilding insanity

Consider the facts:

– in every village and town throughout the UK, there are empty homes either to let or to sell. Local agents who know their patch will tell you that the market is still depressed, and that there is invariably more stock on offer than purchasers to buy it.

– the more honest lettings agents and landlords will also tell you that voids of 6 weeks plus between lets are the norm, and 3 months is not uncommon. There is certainly no queue to rent property in most areas.

– the argument in favour of building more homes is based on a "housing shortage" or "housing crisis" – but the figures for social housing demand used to substantiate  these claims are innnacurate and misleading: they count waiting lists for council/social housing, while blissfully ignoring the fact that these people are usually already living in private accommodation, paid for by housing benefit: in other words, they simply want to change the type and source of their housing, and in the process are double-counted

– the immigration boom is over (thank God). The rate of ingress has fallen, while thousands of economic migrants from the EU accession states have now gone home as the environment here is no longer as attractive.

– housebuilders themselves are a major cause of the shortage of affordable housing. They snap up plots of land, overcome local planning resistance by "bunging" local councils’ funds, build sub-standard units that will last no more than 50 years, create modern ghettos by cramming the maximum number of houses or flats into the smallest possible plots, then sell at sky-high prices to people intoxicated by the smell of new paint, by offering all manner of incentives. This policy is aimed more at the buy-to-let sector than the first-time buyer. And anyone who regards such buildings as investments, very soon realises the truth when they come to sell again, and have to take a loss.

– the environment cannot take much more. In the south, our roads are overcrowded, our public transport is overloaded, our water and drainage systems cannot cope, and there is a shortage of school places in many areas. Yet, in the north, whole streets of houses stand empty, fast falling to dereliction and vandalism. Our green spaces are being stolen, and the character and amenity of our towns and villages is being destroyed.

– Housebuilding does not make the major contribution to our economy that housebuilders claim. In fact, its activities are quite damaging, as many workers are low-paid, unskilled migrants who themselves are a drain on our finances as they need to top up their low earnings with benfits and social housing. Other, more skilled, workers could be more usefully employed either maintaining or refurbishing existing stock, or helping to bring back into use the 600,000 empty housing units already in the UK (have you ever tried to find a builder, plummer or electrician who could do a job in less than a month?).

This insanity has to stop before we create yet another housing bubble. If you want to see the long-term effects of giving housebuilders all their own way, just take a look at what they have done to the Irish, US and Spanish markets . . . in all of which the market has been brought crashing down by the number of empty units for which there are no takers.

Unless we want a US, Irish or Spanish-style housing crash that will last for decades and reduce our whole economy to rubble, it’s time to start ignoring the constant whining of housebuilders and their lackey quangoes like the NHF, and base future housebuilding on careful measurement of REAL demand.

Have your say on this article using the comment section below

0 thoughts on “Stop the housebuilding insanity

  1. Nigel Lewis

    I wasn’t aware that Sarah Palin was a ‘major landlord’ in the UK. Why not your real name? Such a regrettable and ill-informed rant. If you want to make the point that house builders are bad for the UK do it with solid research and do it forcibly, but don’t reach for this sort of sloppy, tabloid ranting – sadly tinged with a hint of ‘anti-foreigner’ sentiment. It weakens your argument, not strengthens it.

  2. Sarah King

    I absolutely agree. The extra strain that this puts on schools, hospitals and roads is unacceptable and is leading to a less than harmonious society due to the frustration it causes.

    On a slightly different tack, I live in a small quiet cul-de-sac and the council allowed 3 new houses to be built. One on a garden plot and two on a single dwelling plot. Although the new houses have a parking space each it is inadequate as the people who have moved in have more than one car. The pressure on the parking in the road has led to great frustration among residents and has even led to one resident’s vehicle being vandalised.
    In my opinion the council were wrong to grant planning permission for these properties. They don’t seem to consider the human angle on these things.

  3. Major Landlord

    My dear Mr. Lewis, if we are talking about weakening arguments, do you feel that YOURS is strengthened by associating me (for no logical reason) to an unpopular US politician with whom I have no similarity or sympathy? Or by intimating that my pragmatic view that this country is already over-full with inhabitants is in any way an indication that I am “anti-foreigner”? (My many “foreign” friends in this country and around the world would find that rather amusing).

    You are a journalist on property matters. I am a professional landlord with considerable experience in all aspects of the property market. We both have access to the same research, but I perhaps have more hands-on experience in such matters as quality of construction. My position on the continuing rush to bury this green and pleasant land under concrete is based on commonsense, and a good deal of behind-the-scenes knowledge of how the housebuilding industry really works, and what drives it.

    The housebuilding industry has access to huge funds, and is highly adept at using them for lobbying politicians, policymakers and the press in its efforts to get its own way, which is often in total conflict with public interest. While we are all entitled to our opinions, your unwillingness publicly to support my view (or state yours), and your attempt to undermine it by ridiculing me, could be construed as evidence that you, too, are a lacky of this out-of-control building machine. We don’t know, because you did not state your own view.

    Lastly, I use a nom de plume because I have a habit of taking on major organisations when I believe they should be called to account. I would be plain foolish to then reveal my true identity (do ALL your sources allow you to publish their identities? No – and for the same reason). However, the Editor of this site and Grant Shapps know who I am. And that’s good enough for me.

  4. Andy B

    its all true, and everyone knows it – however, there are many people with vested interests in keeping the status quo – that of building more and more BTL properties and having house prices continually rise. They’ve built a business model on this principle and regardless of whether the model is already busted, are desperate to keep it going.

    you’ve got to question why you see so many 2 bed flats being built, with an en-suite shower and a bathroom – for 2 people! – and no storage space. Its obvious this is designed for ‘temporary’ use of 2 people. 2 people renting from a BTL landlord. A normal family wouldn’t want such a layout, but they can’t afford to buy any of them, so the developers don’t bother building them. That’s a huge problem for society in general.

    As for the infrastructure – that’s not paid for by the developer, that comes out of your taxes. Notice the lack of amenities in the new-build estates, that’s because a pub and shops aren’t profitable enough so the developers have to be forced to put something in, the minimum possible.

    So, yes, it is out of control, and it would be great for the government to do something to stop it. Unfortunately, the only solution is for prices to come down so that someone on an ordinary salary (of say, £25k) could buy *anything*, not just the 1 bed flat above the chip shop in the grotty end of town. (£25k is the median salary BTW, imagine someone like that buying a 3 bed semi!)

  5. Ian Normal

    What an absurd rant. The politicians are quite happy for the UK population to surpass 70m. Clearly the current home build rate of 100k pa is not going to be enough. But even this is too much for our Landlord blogger

    We’ll need a lot more homes or living standards will fall and people on even median incomes will be forced to home share. But to hell with anyone else, this landlord is only concerned with his low yielding investments.

    Of course this is exactly what landlords want. A house stuffed with students or immigrant workers brings in far more rent than can be afforded by the average family (where market rents are generally set by the area’s Local Housing Allowance)

  6. Ray

    I’m sorry, but building more houses will mean lower prices, which is a very good thing for most people (whether they realize it or not).

    Your argument is that building more property will cause extra strain on drainage, public transport etc. But that’s will only happen if people live in them. And according to your own argument, there aren’t any people to live in them. Therefore those strains will not happen. Therefore your own argument doesn’t stand up to your own argument.