13 Comments

FWIW I think a local councillor using Montaigne to frame something is excellent.

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May 30, 2023Liked by Tom Jones

The problem with zoning is it just pushes the question back. Who is creating the zones, and what is permitted in them? As James indicates, restrictive zoning has caused massive housing shortages elsewhere. If the whole of Greater London gets zoned for detached and semi-detached houses with large gardens, and the Green Belt gets zoned for nothing, then zoning doesn't help. That is exactly what would happen if the District/Borough/etc councils currently responsible for planning decisions were allowed to create the zones and set their rules.

What we need is a permissive building regime, which zoning would only achieve if it were itself permissive.

Like you I don't have the answers, but my thoughts are:

* More centralism - NIMBYism works because the areas are small, magnifying the effect of local activists. So make planning the responsibility of County Councils, the GLA, etc, to dilute them.

* Link funding to new housing - as Pollivere wants to do.

* Find a way to provide political cover to pro-housing councillors. It's political suicide to vote for a new development in a Planning Committee meeting. It needs some strong counterbalance so they can say "Oh sorry, my hands are tied."

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A useful thought — there are plenty of places, New Zealand, San Francisco and Vancouver among them — that have zoning based planning systems and equally, a huge housing shortage with high prices.

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A rather macabre thought, but it is likely that the housing crisis won’t be resolved in a satisfactory manner until the “Janet’s” (or Boomers if you prefer) of this world either start dying or have to take up new lodgings in care homes. I appreciate this won’t happen for another 20 or so years (and I am in no rush to see it happen), but it is entirely possible when that happens we could have a housing surplus of sorts, unless the government insists on importing 5 million immigrants a year. Sadly though, while those who are 65+ continue to vote and remain a disproportionately large demographic, I don’t expect things to change.

The problem is exacerbated by a government which has spent the last 13 years taking the easy decisions with short term benefits, rather than more difficult decisions with better and fairer longer term consequences. I don’t see this changing under Starmer and I’m not sure where that will leave us.

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So long as immigration continues at the current rate, any discussion of building houses is whistling into the hurricane. There's furthermore no appetite to fix the problem among the current regime's governing elite: outrageous housing costs just mean more rents the financial parasites can extract, and both green belts and high immigration contribute to this happy state of affairs.

It follows that any discussion of this problem that does not start with removing the current elite (for whom this is not a problem, but the foundation for their way of life) is pointless. So let us posit for the sake of argument that this elite has been removed from power. What then to do about the housing shortage?

Well, you quote a housing shortfall of 4 million units. Consulting Wikipedia, as of 2016 Britain's population includes 4.7 million Asians and 2 million blacks. Presumably those numbers are higher now given that immigrants are being imported at the incredible rate of 1 million annually. Since their presence in Great Britain is backstopped by the rancid elite, I think it is clear how to solve the problem.

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