Thursday, June 07, 2007

Home thoughts

Listening to the news this morning, there was an item in which the governments housing advisor was quoted as saying that there is a danger that the next generation will be priced out of home ownership.

I don't disagree with that, but what I do disagree with was his assertion that the ONLY option to avoid this happening was to build more houses. Not only do I not think this is the only option, I don't even believe it should be the first option as one of the most precious things in a small and, largely, overcrowded island is green space. Once again, we have a situation where a government's concern for the "environment" does not extend to the immediate environment or even the environmental impact of it's social policies.

When it comes to the housing shortage there are some things that ought to be considered before we start carpeting huge swathes of our glorious landscape with massive housing estates. First off, is the issue of empty homes. There are thousands of unoccupied houses the length and breadth of Britain which are left standing empty and unused for various reasons. Surely it would make sense to introduce policies to encourage the owners of these homes to either use them or lose them. Maybe that sounds draconian, but it's a national disgrace that so many homes are left virtually abandoned when there is such a chronic housing shortage.

The second issue is that of single occupancy homes. More and more people in Britain today are living alone - often in 2, 3 or even 4 or more bedroom properties. Of course they have a right to do this, but it is wrong in my opinion that they are given tax concessions for doing so in the form of rebates on their council tax. Instead of giving a rebate there should be a premium attached to single occupancy homes. I would suggest a premium of 25% per bedroom - so that a person living in a one bedroom flat pays 125% of the council tax for a property of that band, 150% for a 2 bedroom, 175% for a three bedroom and so on. That's just a quick thought off the top of my head, but I'm sure there are ways that any forward thinking government could think of to discourage single occupancy homes.

The third issue is that of second/holiday homes. Again, this should be discouraged by adopting punitive measures for multiple home ownership and, off the top of my head once more, a simple method would be to introduce a premium on the council tax on second homes - in this case, though, I would add 100% to the council tax for each home - so that the first home they pay 100%; 200% on the second home, 300% on a third home and so on.

All of this is my way of saying that the before we consider building more houses in this already overcrowded land (especially in the south east), we should make much better use of the existing housing stock.

There is, of course, another reason why property is so scarce at the moment. Immigration. When hundreds of thousands of people are arriving in this country every year looking for somewhere to live this is bound to cause problems with housing. The solution is simple. Restrict immigration substantially and round up and deport illegal immigrants immediately.


Sarah said...

Why should a single person living in a one bedroom flat have to pay 125% council tax? It's not like they can have less bedrooms? What do you expect them to do? Live with their parents their whole lives? Magic a partner out of thin air? Buy a two bedroom place with money they don't have and rent out a room? Why is it unreasonable for a single person to live in a one bedroom place but okay for a couple (who likely as not only take up one room) to live in a four bedroom place?

Stan said...

Like I said in the post, Sarah - it was just an idea that came off the top of my head as I was writing this. The point is that before we start building ever more homes we ought find ways to make better use of the existing stock - and one of those ways would be to discourage single occupancy.