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What can we do about homes for all?
How can we provide decent homes for everyone?
If each nation is to provide homes for all those permanently living within its borders, the first thing necessary is that all authorities and their political opponents become honest, find and face facts, and act to deal with the realities shown by those facts and not play politics with peoples' lives just to get ahead in the opinion polls.
In Britain, one basic fact has to be acknowledged by all those involved, including the many critics on social media. This fact is that Britain is a relatively small island with limits to how much land can be built upon. The second step necessary is to stabilise the size of the population through a 15 year plan that aims to result in a net migration to Britain of zero and to slow the birth rate of people already here.
These will be hugely unpopular policies and the mechanisms for achieving these aims will be even more distasteful to a great many people.
Facts must be faced. The only mechanisms open to a democracy are fiscal. We can not issue draconian enforcement orders, but we can stop giving additional tax payers money to parents with more than two children. The present policy of giving extra money for every extra child is not helping the situation. We can start an education initiative similar to the stop-smoking one. Two ideas need to become accepted: these are the benefits of reducing the birth rate, and a change in how people view home ownership.
We have to educate people away from seeing their home as a financial investment which will increase in value. The home is a place to live in relative freedom, to live as you wish, to decorate and alter as you wish; it should not also be a financial growth mechanism.
We can get the true facts about all the empty properties, both domestic and commercial, and see if compulsory purchases will bring these back into use for those needing homes. We can do more conversion of vacant commercial properties into housing. We can penalise the mega-businesses who hoard land, speculating on its increasing value. We can build transport infrastructure to marginal land that is not suitable for efficient food production and build new towns on this land. Taxpayers' money will need to be invested in roads, rail, and metro transport to these places, but this will reduce the building on productive farm lands and help to achieve house price stability and homes for all.
People will need to be honestly told that building homes for all will stop house-value increases. This will not be a popular move.
Disused commercial buildings should automatically be taken over by the state and turned into housing apartments, 70% of which can be sold to recoup costs, while retaining 30% as social housing to be rented out by “not-for-profit housing associations,” or the local authority. These may not be in beautiful garden village settings, but far better than being homeless.
State-owned land that is surplus to needs, disused government administrative buildings, or out-of-date prison authority properties should always automatically pass to the local authority for development as housing. They should not be allowed to sit empty for years while being sold to speculative developers. The local authority should not be able to sell these properties undeveloped, or take longer than three years to start work on turning the property into affordable housing. If they take over three years, the central government should give ownership and control to housing associations.
Above all, in the medium term (that is, over 50 years) the demand for housing must be stabilised, not by draconian socialist edicts or by extreme capitalism economics but by education and by exercising flexibility in the solutions offered, and mostly by stabilising the populations.
Surely it is common sense to see that the planet Earth can not continue to support the present rate of population growth? Not just housing but food, water, the natural environment—they all need a halt to the massive overpopulation we are heading towards.
The building industry need not fear since there will always be a need to replace sub-standard properties and, as each year passes, older places will be declared sub-standard.
The coming of artificially intelligent robots, who will take over not just physical labour but also routine administrative work, will result in unemployment; this will increase the need for social housing. Why wait for the present crisis to become a total disaster ? Call on governments all round the world, to face up to the realities of the future and start acting now. Not the pretence we can stop climate change or change weather patterns, by raising taxes and passing restrictive laws, but by actual positive action to increase housing and reduce populations.