Friday, August 29, 2008

The Stan Plan: Housing policy and priority

The last post got me thinking about housing again - and particularly about local government and housing. Two things bother me about council housing policies and council tax rates.

First of all, the ridiculous idea that people who under use the home they have are given a discount from their rates for doing so. I don't see why they should be - yes, I know that, in theory, they are less drain on resources, but by keeping that house underused they are also preventing someone else from contributing to the local economy. At best that balances out - at worst, and more likely, it costs the local economy money.

The second thing that bothers me is the way housing is allocated. I know the BNP claim that there are actual policies to house immigrants and ethnic minorities ahead of the indigenous population in some areas. I'm not sure that is the actual policy, but what is - usually - true is that the housing is allocated on "need" rather than entitlement.

I don't subscribe to the belief that ethnic minorities are more "needy" than indigenous people nor do I agree that just because an immigrant chose to make themselves homeless and jobless and come here gives them a greater "need" than someone who has lived here all their life and is homeless and jobless through no fault of their own - but, apparently, local authorities do.

So to redress these issues here is my plan for a better housing policy.

The Stan Plan for council tax and housing priority

Before I go into the actual policy I should point out that I saw nothing wrong with the old Maggie style Community Charge - the poll tax. It was relatively simple and fair - you live in a community so you pay for the services that community provides.

I still don't see why a 30 year old living at home with mum and dad, earning £30,000 a year, driving around in a £20,000 car and taking two or three holidays a year (yes, I know people like this) should be exempt from paying for local services, but there you go.

I don't agree with local income tax because I don't see why someone should pay more for a service just because they earn more. The Community Charge was fair and equitable - bring it back, I say!

Anyway - on to the policy. As I said before, I think it is stupid to reward people for keeping homes empty or underused. Yes, they possibly use less services (debatable as they still get their bins emptied, street cleaned and streetlights maintained - but I won't go into that now).

I'm not sure what the rebate is (25%?), but it is plain daft to me. Instead I propose a sliding scale of charges depending on the number of bedrooms that home is designed for. I say "designed for" to ensure that someone can not get around the charge by converting their 3 bed house into a one bedroom house.

Sliding Scale for Council Tax
1 bed house/flat with 1 occupant - 100% charge (i.e. - no rebate, but no additional charge either)
2 bed house with 1 occupant - 125% charge
3 bed house with 1 occupant - 150% charge
4 bed house with 1-2 occupants - 175% charge
5 bed house with 1-3 occupants - 200% charge

Note: an occupant needs to be registered to that address - so if a couple has a 4 bed house but two kids at uni they won't pay the additional charge.

There will also be reduced charges for larger families living in smaller homes.

1 bed house with 2 or more occupants - 25% discount.
2 bed house with 4 or more occupants - 25% discount
3 bed house with 5 or more occupants - 25% discount

You get the picture. Incidentally - I personally would get no benefit from this as I have a 3 bed house with 4 occupants. So I'd pay the same as I do now - the idea is to encourage people to make better use of their homes and, also, to encourage people to have larger families. The other benefit is that people whose homes are becoming too small for their family could possibly benefit from reduced costs allowing them to save for a larger more suitable home.

Housing priority
The following table lists the priority for council housing. Each successive priority surpasses the previous so someone on priority 3 is more entitled to a council house than someone on priority 2.

1 Length of time you have lived in Britain
2 Length of time you have lived in the local authority area.
3 Length of time you have lived in the town/village/city
4 You were born in Britain
5 You were born in the local authority area
6 You were born in the town/village/city
7 Your parents were born in Britain
8 Your parents were born in the local authority area
9 Your parents were born in the town/village/city
10 Your grandparents were born in Britain
11 Your grandparents were born in the local authority area
12 Your grandparents were born in the town/village/area

..... and so on.

By that measure we can ensure that local people who can demonstrate a generational attachment to the local region are given priority for housing.

Seems fair to me.


Anonymous said...

Your tax plan is simple socialism.

One person living alone in a big house does not consume more local services than the same person living alone in a small house, so why make them pay more?

As for your priority list, it's only result will be to inhibit mobility. Is that such a good thing?

Rob said...

"4 bed house with 1-2 occupants"

What about a married couple who own a 4 bed house, and the woman is pregnant? Should they instead own a 1 or 2-bed house, wait for the child(ren) to be born and then get a bigger place?

As the above poster said, this is simple socialism. In fact, it is nearer to Communism.

Stan said...

OK - third attempt to answer your criticisms, Rob and anon - hopefully it will publish this time!

Personally I don't see this as "socialism" at all, but you're entitlted to your opinion. I see it as a pragmatic solution to a real problem. It does not force anyone to live in a one bed house against their will - just means they pay a little more. Personally I think that makes sense - certainly more sense than giving people discounts for keeping places empty or underused - incidentally I would favour a similar approach for business properties which also get discounts for being left empty. Daft!

Although there may be slightly higher landfill disposal costs for larger families (debatable) the actual direct cost of collecting the rubbish or lighting the street is the same whether the home is occupied by one person or four.

As for inhibiting mobility - this priority is only for council housing. There is nothing to stop someone moving to a new town and buying/renting privately. What it will do is stop the forced mobility - local people forced out of their town because of rising prices or an influx of immigrants.

If a couple can afford a 4 bed house in the first place then it is likely they can bear the costs of slightly higher council tax until the child is born.

As I said in the post there would be discounts depending on circumstances - I would not want to see pensioners who have worked hard and saved hard forced to sell their 4 bed home because of the increased council tax.

Although I am a conservative, I've never denied that I have some beliefs that are socialist - certain state owned industries for existence - but I reject the idea that this is socialist either in instinct or practice. It is pragmatic and a better way to encourage proper use of existing housing stock which - if used properly - is more than enough to provide for our current level of population and removes the need for massively increased house building which will only cause problems. Add in my other ideas - making it easier, for example, for local people to independtly purchase small plots of land and build their own homes rather than relying on large house builders who buy large plots of land and then cram in huge ugly housing estates with little respect for the local environment and you get a better use of housing stock and a more organic growth to a town/village rather than the arbitrary expansion we currently see.