Housing, a quick note

28 Oct 2013 Interesting Twitter exchange just now, started by Tom Neumark (see screenshot below), needs more than 140 character response. [Later:  his blog has a longer version and I hadn’t connected it before. ]

The way people relate to housing and to the financial relationships which now govern so much of it is very fragmented: outright owners and established mortgage-payers gaining from price growth; new buyers maybe struggling and very exposed to interest-rate increases, especially if they have high LTV; frustrated would-be-buyers priced out; private tenants suffering under rents which in SE and some other places are extremely high with quality often very poor; social tenants finding their rents being jacked up to “affordable” levels, and in many places subject now to eviction/’decanting’ to make way for private development; homelessness and overcrowding booming; rumours of extensive vacant dwellings in London; loads of under-occupation (see previous post).

While huge increases in output of dwellings in many regions is certainly needed, the effects will be slow to work through and will only benefit few. A much more comprehensive analysis and programme of action will be needed. This will surely need to

  1. protect the existing supply of non-commodity (council etc) housing and increase it, not just through building;
  2. apply rent controls, better security and quality controls in private renting;
  3. convince people that future house prices will be stable, at least in real terms, so the housing “ladder” ceases to be an escalator for/to wealth and lies flat on the ground;
  4. we thus approach a world in which housing is for living in.
  5. If people want to save, or have pensions, the society can find ways of organising that without people feeling compelled to speculate in housing.

On top of all that there are big macro-social issues here about wage share in GDP (too low), how the society could get some investment in real productive capacity and actual buildings (as distinct from asset value bubbles).

Could politicians make such a programme appeal to a majority of the population, including the large (though falling) % of owner-occupiers? I don’t know but must mention:

  • Security to stay put could be much better in renting than it has become (which would undermine ONE of the motives many people have for buying);
  • There seems to be mounting public support for nationalisation of the railway and even defence of the NHS so maybe the neo-liberal brainwashing is loosing its power;
  • A big surge in co-housing, co-ops etc could help to diversify the realities and perceptions surrounding ‘tenure’
  • More, anyone?

Neumark etc 20131028

Author: Editors


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