In New Zealand, as in the UK, we have a problem with houses being too expensive. Which is to say that we have too few of them. Increasingly children are living with their parents into middle age. People in their twenties are poorer than their parents and houses are much more expensive relative to earnings.
You would have thought that 35 years of property owning democracy since Thatcher sold off council houses in the UK; plus the evidence for the rest of the world, including New Zealand, would have convinced everyone that the free market is not the only club in the bag to solve this problem. I realise that Conservative thinkers believe the problem is that we have not actually tried a free market in housing. However, I sat on the local plan committee in Tendring District Council. There is plenty of land available for building, either with planning permission already or land designated for development.
The free market has failed lower income families and the poor. Private developers are simply not interested in supplying this sector of the housing market. They don’t make enough money. There are much richer pickings elsewhere. This ends in the disgrace of an “affordable” house in Auckland costing NZ$650k.
During the recent general election in New Zealand all parties committed the government to build much more social and affordable housing in the next three years than had been done in the last three years. The mystery is why there has been no comparable development in the UK. I am a fan of Ben Chu in The Guardian. However, even he could only bring himself to suggest these three “essential” remedies;
“First, taxation reform to curb the incentive to view housing as a financial asset, something that has put considerable upward pressure on prices in recent decades. Second, greater rights and security for renters under the law. Third, planning liberalisation to facilitate a greater supply of private homes and bigger government grants for the construction of many more social ones.”
If even The Guardian cannot see the need for governments to build houses, there is no hope in the UK. Or maybe Jeremy Corbyn’s time really has come!