Monday, 11 June 2007

Can Campbell make housing a Lib Dem issue?

In an “in other news” footnote to a post on pensions, Centre Forum’s Free Think blog asks whether

“Ming is being told by his pollsters that housing is concerning the voters enough to make it a top priority? And do the Lib Dems have enough of an identity on that issue to make it a key feature of any future election?”
As I have commented on the Free Think site, I wonder whether the real problem is that the Liberal Democrats have too much “identity” on the subject.

Do they introduce land value taxation to capture the unearned wealth that accrues to today’s landowners at the expense of future landowners?

Do they devolve even more decision-making on planning to local or regional authorities? Or do they use the power of Government to defend the general public against the vested interests of local NIMBYs (somehow, the acronym doesn’t work if one spells it with an ‘ies’).

The more liberal wing might allow landowners the freedom to develop their land as they see fit. The more interventionist might want to use regulation to force landlords to build houses that meet certain criteria and standards.

Another Lib Dem identity crisis?


Jock Coats said...

One thing I believe we could do to beef up our existing policies is to commit to create a revolving loan fund so Community Land Trusts could enter the bidding for land when it comes up for sale on the basis that it will be repaid when the Mutual Home Ownership Society's members move in.

Tom Papworth said...

Nope. You've lost me!

Joe Otten said...


I'm all for more diversity in land ownership, and we can see what works. But that said I'm not clear why a community land trust would be that great.

Isn't the housing problem about high prices due to strangled supply? Any publicly supported scheme to "make affordable" housing for a few lucky participants without addressing the supply issue will change very little for the majority missing out on this kind-of handout.

Tom Papworth said...

I understand all that.

Hmm... Maybe my ears are only attuned to a certain frequency.

Jock Coats said...

CLTs needn't be "for a lucky few" if we had the ability to operate in the market when land becomes available. By taking at least the profit, and usually some of the land value out of the cost of buying we can turn any development into an affordable development against the for-profit developers.

But the key is being able to get into the market when a piece of land comes available. An example in Oxford at the moment - the city council has an existing sheltered housing block - ie all affordable - that it can no longer let to that group of people. It cannot afford to redevelop it itself, and needs the maximum capital receipt from it to put towards other deficits elsehwere such as decent homes in the rest of its estate. It legally cannot talk to us exclusively as a "preferred bidder" giving us time to raise the money, even if we were prepared to pay market rates, which we would be. If we had access to a revolving loan fund of some kind we could compete with other bidders and could return the money at the end of the development stage when the mutual that's going to run the site for its lifetime takes on its mortgage.

And no, the housing crisis is not only about supply.