Friday, 17 November 2017

Knowle relocation project: PegasusLife proposals >>> Where is the innovative, sympathetic, green design?

The current design for Knowle is not exactly in keeping with its immediate environment, the local streetscape or anything else in the Valley for that matter:

Futures Forum: Knowle Relocation Project: PegausLife's 113 apartment development at Tetbury: "our largest development to date" >>> "low-rise apartment blocks surrounded by green space ... designed to blend easily with the local landscape"

Futures Forum: "Is Sidmouth to become simply a ghetto for the super-rich and a cash-cow for the Council? "

Back in July 2013, this blog showcased the home and office of the architect who has since designed the proposed development at Knowle:
Futures Forum: Self-build

The house in London is indeed a very fine design - which the Architects' Journal was full of praise for:

Is this the most influential house in a generation?


Now in its 15th year, how has Sarah Wigglesworth and Jeremy Till’s radical home/office in north London, a test bed for green design, fared?

Architects’ own homes have a formidable lineage. As Charles Jencks has observed, they can be both ‘extreme and obsessive’. Sarah Wigglesworth and Jeremy Till’s straw bale house and associated office at 9-10 Stock Orchard Street in Islington, London, is no exception. When he put the house’s straw bales on the cover of the Architectural Review in January 2002, former editor Peter Davey called it ‘the most sexy and witty building I have seen for years.’ Yet, to this day, Wigglesworth has not built another private house.

Stock Orchard House coincided with the surge of interest in architecture as lifestyle. It was featured in Channel 4’s inaugural Grand Designs series in 1999 and again shortly after completion in early 2001, with frequent repeats, including one earlier this month. Wigglesworth and Till set out to forge not only a new lifestyle but a new aesthetic for sustainability, which would distinguish itself from the worthy but dull tropes too often associated with green design.

Is this the most influential house in a generation? | Building | Architects Journal

Yes, this house in London is the perfect 'green design': and yet, wouldn't the perfect 'green design' for Knowle be renovation and refurbishment?
Futures Forum: "A truly green alternative to EDDC's proposal"
Futures Forum: Knowle: refurbishment vs redevelopment

And whilst the house in London is hardly 'dull', is this the sort of architecture which is appropriate for this corner of Sidmouth?
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project >>> a far more imposing development than assumed? Part Six: "the new building would be twice as high a the current building"

And why are we not getting the same sort of 'innovative' design at Knowle?
Futures Forum: A solution to our housing problems: 'alternative housing'
Futures Forum: Eco-housing ten years on
Futures Forum: Self-build

Of course, here in Devon, we have the original straw and mud house - called the cob cottage:
Futures Forum: A cob cottage for £150...
Futures Forum: Building Cob Castles in East Devon... on Grand Designs

A solution to our housing problems: build more council houses


There really are lots of good ideas around social housing out there 
- as well as plenty of not so good ideas:

You would expect the Mirror to support the idea from a political standpoint:
There is a solution to the housing crisis: build more council homes - John Mills - Mirror Online


But there is growing support for social housing from a pragmatic, technical and innovative standpoint:
Futures Forum: A solution to our housing problems: offsite manufactured homes
Futures Forum: A solution to our housing problems: modular houses
Futures Forum: A solution to our housing problems: zero-carbon, modular housing using space above car parks

This is from a real estate professional:

How to solve the housing crisis in five years

Bruce Dear is head of London real estate at law firm Eversheds Sutherland.

Modular technology means we could easily build over 500,000 homes a year (Source: Getty)

The UK housing market is failing millions of people. It produces far too few homes, and then offers them at unaffordable rents and prices.

Yet we could cure this national housing crisis in just five years, using high-technology modular construction, reimagined council housing and patient institutional capital.

In Japan, the modular future has already arrived. Toyota can build you an elegant modular house within 45 days. They will guarantee it for 60 years, and it will last 100. It only costs about £70,000 to make a semi-detached modular house. Flats are even quicker and cheaper – one Japanese factory can manufacture 6,000 flats a week.

The UK needs to build about 250,000 homes a year, but we only manage 100,000 or so. We should be ashamed. Modular technology means we could easily build over 500,000 homes a year and eradicate our housing deficit.

So, we know how we can achieve the scale and speed of construction to solve our housing problem. But who should do it?

There is an obvious candidate. The government will pay £24bn (the build-cost of 340,000 modular semis) in housing benefit this year, effectively guaranteeing private landlords’ rent. Housing benefit traps the government into a loss-making residential outsourcing deal that is poor value for taxpayers.

It doesn’t have to be like this. During the twentieth century, the UK housing market was a mixed micro-economy. Councils built about 30 per cent of homes and helped tame the housing shortage. It was a mass solution for mixed communities.

In 1981, one third of Londoners lived in council housing, and one third of council house tenants were earning above average income. Council housing created an agreeable environment for millions of working and lower-middle class families and, despite some problems, was a civilised solution to the fact that private markets alone struggle to deal with housing deficits.

Rather than throwing good housing benefit money after bad, the government should ignite a vast and visionary programme of state-sponsored modular home building. By using Japanese technology, the government could address the housing problems of millions of ordinary working people and receive an income in return.

Macmillan’s 1950s One Nation solution (continuing Bevan’s 1940s work) is a model. He adopted a balanced, mixed market approach to housing, combining state housebuilding with private housebuilder enterprise. Building restrictions were loosened and licenses abolished. Multi-tenure solutions were nurtured and local authorities empowered to build and borrow. As Macmillan said, “the houses were built” – 275,000 in 1952, 318,750 in 1953.

Macmillan believed in public housing (in partnership with the private sector) because he wanted a housing market that worked for everyone. Our divided nation needs his One Nation housing vision again.

But the government is too indebted to deal with the housing deficit on its own. This immense problem demands a solution of matching scale. The public and private sector must work as one to overcome it.

I would suggest a gigantic joint-venture platform where the UK pension funds and government invest together to launch a transformative programme to build millions of council, social, build-to-rent, shared equity, and (genuinely affordable) build-to-sell homes. Because we can only end our housing famine by building millions more homes of every tenure.

The government would need to create an investable proposition for the institutions. But this should be achievable: housing provision is ideally suited to their need for long term liability matching returns.

The house builders and housing associations cannot resolve the UK’s housing shortage without help (and it is not their job to). But our government and institutions can work alongside them to deal with it.

Using modular housing, mass council home building, and imaginative strategic partnerships between government and institutions, we can again house our poor and vulnerable and the millions of under 40s the market currently lets down.

If we don’t grasp this opportunity, we will be condemned to house only the rich and the chronically over-mortgaged. We will also have to face our grandchildren, when they ask us why we failed to house them.

How to solve the housing crisis in five years | City A.M.


Because the alternative seems to be councils investing in property speculation:
Futures Forum: District Council local housing company >>> "the ‘huge risk’ in speculating on the property market"
Futures Forum: Local Housing Companies >>> 'It is early days for this new model of house-building, but with their seeming commitment to quality design, the omens are promising for architects seeking work in the sector. Whether this model can bridge the gap in affordable housing provision remains to be seen."

The District Council in East Devon has plans to build housing on its own land 
- but not council housing:
Futures Forum: Council-owned land for social housing
Futures Forum: "Making the case for affordable housing on public land" >>> >>> Or: Why doesn't the District Council build affordable housing on its own land?

For example:
Futures Forum: Manstone Depot: "The council has a growing appetite to build its own council housing."
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and another departure from the Local Plan >>> Manstone Depot planning application 16/2526/FUL

Even though back in the 1970s, its current HQ housed several council flats:
Futures Forum: Knowle plans: flats

It could chose to invest in social housing, but instead, notes the EDW blog earlier today, it prefers to spend tax-payers money on something else:


17 NOV 2017

The £10 million being spent on the new EDDC HQ could pay for 80 new council houses in our district.

Yes, EDDC will say it will SAVE money.

BUT if EDDC had properly maintained Knowle over the last 10+ years as it should have, they would not have needed to move.

How many council houses equals a new headquarters? | East Devon Watch

This is in light of a report out today:

Councils to spend £1bn on commercial property amid housing shortage

Exclusive: Expert estimate suggests figure local authorities are on course to lay out this year could instead be used to fund 8,000 council homes

Coombe Abbey hotel was bought by Coventry city council, a deal that prompted protests. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

Robert Booth

Friday 17 November 2017

Councils are on course to spend more than £1bn on commercial property this year, investing more in shopping centres, country clubs, hotels, offices and other assets than in building council houses, figures show.

Town halls in England and Wales spent £758m buying up commercial property in the first eight months of this year, according to property market data from Savills, but are only building 1,730 council houses a year, government figures for 2016-17 show.

The £1bn councils are on track to spend could produce more than 8,000 new council homes, an expert estimate suggests. Earlier this year, Downing Street indicated that amount could deliver 12,500 homes.

While no nationwide figure is available for the total cost to the taxpayer of council houses built in 2016-17, expert estimates putting the cost per property at up to £125,000 would suggest local authorities spent in the region of £250m.

About 77,000 households in England and Wales are living in temporary accommodation and 1.2 million are on council waiting lists.

Council leaders are demanding that the government lifts the cap on borrowing for housing in the budget next week.

Councils to spend £1bn on commercial property amid housing shortage | Society | The Guardian

A solution to our housing problems: consider reforming the planning system, abolishing the greenbelts, introducing taxes to deter speculation, and limiting foreign ownership.

There are no simple 'solutions' to our housing problems...

One such solution is not to simply build more housing to satisfy 'demand':
Futures Forum: The solution to our housing problems: forget about 'supply and demand'

Here's a reply from the Financial Times to a piece this blog posted a couple of days ago:

The problem isn’t lack of supply, it’s that the current supply is too expensive


Anyone who read last week’s House & Home will have seen that John Kay has solved the housing crisis. Or rather, he says, his parrot has. Teach Polly the words “supply” and “demand” and it could hit on the solution: build more homes.

Except trying to build yourself out of a housing crisis is like trying to dig yourself out of a hole. If you don’t recognise the particular challenges your situation presents, you’re going to make things worse.

Kay’s numbers aren’t wrong. To make up for immigration and other societal changes that have swept Britain in the past 40 years, he estimates we should be building 300,000 new homes a year. Well, perhaps we should. And that’s not even such an outrageous number; they build that in France in a bad year.

Nor is Kay wrong about the fact that new housing supply has dwindled since the mid-1970s — and nosedived since policies such as Right to Buy were introduced by the first Thatcher government (though Thatcher built more council homes in every year of her premiership than Blair and Brown did in their combined 13-year tenure).

Where I disagree with Kay is that I don’t think building 300,000 homes this year, or next year, or every year for the next five will make any difference whatsoever.

London isn’t under-supplied; it’s over-supplied with homes that are too expensive

This is because London isn’t full. Walk around fancy new developments in Aldgate or Battersea or, in fact, any street you like in what estate agents call prime central London: you’ll see darkened windows peering back like vacant eye sockets in a skull. Log on to the property website Zoopla and you can find multi-million-pound homes that have sat on the market for years.

London isn’t under-supplied; it’s over-supplied with homes that are too expensive. The real question then is: how did homes become so expensive?

Supply and demand has played a part. But that’s not why homes are expensive. Homes are expensive because land values are very high, the planning system promotes stasis and because, fundamentally, we, as a society, want them high. Imagine what would happen if a government reduced house prices by 20 per cent; that party would be obliterated in the time it took to organise a snap election.

But mostly, homes are expensive because the banks got involved.

The Bank of England first allowed banks to offer mortgages in the 1970s (before that, such lending had been restricted to building societies). Then in the 1980s, a bonfire of banking regulations opened the door to international competition. In the 1990s came a flood of credit. By the end of the decade, banks were freely issuing mortgages of 100 per cent loan to value, which required no deposit.

There’s a saying: a rising tide lifts all boats. Well, that’s what happens to house prices when you increase everyone’s spending power.

After the 2008 crash, it got worse. Low interest rates and quantitative easing measures lifted asset prices to the point where property looked like a sound investment. In came newly swollen real estate arms of investment banks, institutional investors and wealthy individuals from China, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the rest.

So the fact is, if overnight you could build 10,000 truly affordable homes in London, tomorrow morning you’d have a queue half a million people long, and from all over the world. That’s because, in world cities such as London, demand is global and supply is local.

Short of diminishing London’s global appeal — which, according to leading Wall Street bankers last week, Brexit might yet do — the only other option is to limit foreign ownership. Developers tell me that would be a disaster as well because the only reason projects get off the ground is the early injection of overseas capital. So unless the government reverses 35 years of housing policy — the so-called shift from bricks to benefits — and starts seriously building social housing again, we are going to have to rely on the private sector to fill the gap.

Of course it won’t — because there’s no incentive for it to do so, and the current mechanisms local authorities have for making developers do their bit are woefully inadequate. But mostly it won’t because developers are strapped.

At current market rates, homes in London look fully priced. Buy-to-let investors are turning up their noses because rents haven’t been growing anything like as much as house prices, so annual yields have been squeezed — to an average of 3.5 per cent in London. Deutsche Bank calculates that, at that rate, after tax and interest, it would take a buyer 200 years to see profit.

Which brings us to Generation Rent. Kay says it’s facile to assume that this is a function of high prices because mortgage repayments are often cheaper than renting. That’s true, but the problem isn’t the monthly repayments; it’s the deposit.

However you analyse it, housing in Britain is a mess. I rent a one-bedroom flat in Stepney Green, east London. If I wanted to buy it, providing I could get a 4.5 times salary mortgage, I’d need a deposit of more than £186,000. On my current salary, presuming I save 20 per cent of my take-home pay every month, it would take me 57 years and four months to afford it. I’d be 89 years old before I could move in. And when I did, I could be paying 38 per cent less in repayments than I currently am in rent. (That’s if they issued mortgages to 89-year-olds, which they don’t.)

The truth is there are no easy solutions to the housing crisis — save giving up on the idea of home ownership altogether (an Englishman’s house is not his castle, the rate of owner-occupation only breached 50 per cent for first time in 1971). We need to seriously consider reforming the planning system, abolishing the greenbelts, introducing taxes to deter speculation, and limiting foreign ownership. And after that? Well, nudge John Kay’s parrot because it’s his time to shine: “Build more homes!”

Nathan Brooker is House & Home’s property editor

Follow Nathan Brooker on Twitter @ncbrooker

Why solving the UK housing crisis requires more than new homes

Rethinking devolution > abolish district councils

We've got all sorts on offer:
Futures Forum: Can the Devon/Somerset Local Enterprise Partnership 'double' the regional economy in 18 years?
Futures Forum: The 'vision' of higher productivity and economic growth in Devon "bears little relation to reality"
Futures Forum: Devolution proposals for Devon and Somerset >>> "focusing on delivering improved productivity" or "an unelected, one-party combined authority"?
Futures Forum: The picture of 'devolution' in the South West gets murkier

As the East Devon Watch blog notes today:


17 NOV 2017

BUT, BUT, BUT – it’s already happening – EXCEPT we are keeping district councillors on the payroll!

Why does Owl say this?

Currently we have (at least) these new bureaucratic (and non-accountable) quangos in our area:

The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Council
The “Greater Sourh West” group of LEPs
The “Joint Committee” of councils, NHS quangos and others in Devon and Somerset
“Greater Exeter”

and others working in the shadows.

In the middle of all this East Devon District Council is paying millions to build a new HQ and has not reduced its staff numbers throughout the period of austerity.

Questions … questions … but none of these groups are answerable to us and all choose how much (or more likely, how little) scrutiny they wish to have.

“ Abolish Devon district and borough councils to create super authority’ “ | East Devon Watch

It follows on from a report from ResPublica:

Devo 2.0: The Case for Counties

Reform is essential in facing up to England’s economic and political challenges. Local government has, in some places, risen to the occasion. But the system that exists in England is unsuitable for the roles it is now being asked to take on, roles unforeseen at the time of its creation. Devolution and implementation of local industrial strategies are advancing in city-region areas but have made almost no progress in the counties, hampered by the current structures.

They held an event at the Conservative Party conference last month, jointly with Cornwall County Council:

Power to the People: Why devolution to counties needs to be next

With a new Government and a fresh approach to the agenda, now is the time for new governance models for devolution which satisfy requirements for accountability while respecting historic identities and boundaries. Cornwall council was among the first council to agree a devolution deal, with an ambitious package covering skills, bus franchising, and health and social care. While Cornwall has been able to receive devolved powers directly thanks to its unitary structure, the same is not true for many other county areas.

The Express & Echo reports from Devon on the issues:

'Abolish Devon district and borough councils to create super authority', study says

Report says scrapping two-tier local government system will boost economy by £31bn

Devon Live
17 NOV 2017

Exeter's County Hall

The Government could deliver a £31 billion boost to the economy over five years by abolishing 201 district and borough councils in England and handing over their powers to county halls, a new report has said.

The report from think tank ResPublica calls for the abolition of the historic two-tier system of local government, which sees most rural areas of England covered by both a county council and a smaller district or borough authority with sometimes overlapping responsibilities.

ResPublica director Phillip Blond said the system is causing “needless confusion”, as businesses and developers find their plans frustrated by “parochial” decision-making on strategic issues.

Ditching the two-tier system and following the example of unitary councils adopted by most cities would help iron out wide variations in productivity which see workers in Cornwall take five days to produce the same value that can be delivered in three days in Surrey, he said.

With uncertain economic conditions after Brexit, the report said it was “vital” for counties to be prepared to weather the possible storm, particularly as those which voted most strongly to leave the EU are thought to be most vulnerable to any decline in trade resulting from it.

“The needless confusion that frustrates the ambitions of business and government alike in our county areas must end now,” Mr Blond said. “With Brexit on the horizon and our city-regions already benefiting from devolution, we can’t afford the waste and complication that the current system creates. Single councils at the county scale are the future and we call on the Government to move rapidly to encourage them.”

Baroness Jane Scott, the leader of Wiltshire Council, said the move to a unitary authority in the county in 2009 had been a “great success” and warned that counties which fail to follow its lead face “the real risk of ... being left behind”.

“Streamlining counties will contribute billions to the national economy and will be good for business,” said Lady Scott, the County Councils Network’s spokeswoman on reform. “But the real winners are local residents who will benefit from improved public services, less bureaucracy, and access to more housing and facilities that meet local need and demand.”

The report will be launched at the County Council Network’s annual conference on November 20.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “Moving to a single tier large unitary authority can often give residents a better deal for their local taxes, improved local services, less bureaucracy and stronger and more accountable local leadership. However, we are clear that any such move must be both locally led and have support from the community.”

Cllr Alan Connett supports a 1974 style restructure, though it is not official Lib Dem policy

Alan Connett, a councillor at district and county level for 22 years, said the "financial pressures faced within local authorities and the complexities of providing important services are such that we will need fewer but bigger councils".

Speaking personally and not in his official capacity as leader of Devon County Council's Liberal Democrats, he added: "Personally, I think the time has come for a 1974 style reorganisation of councils. This will help make savings which can then be used to support critical services such as social care for children and older people and fixing the roads.

"So much money is now being spent on council reorganisations by the back door, badged as devolution, joint committees or combined authorities. The plans for a 'Super Council' for Devon and Somerset will suck up an extra £89,000 a year in running costs alone. However, I don't want to see the bickering, rivalry and money wasted that has occurred in the past when local councils were engaged in 'turf wars' over arguments about unitary status. That's why I take the view that a 1974 type transformation of local government would be the right approach."

'Abolish Devon district and borough councils to create super authority', study says - Devon Live

Meanwhile, as the EDW notes, we've got a nice little project happening here in East Devon:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: spending £10m on an new HQ while other councils must downsize

Christmas without cruelty festival: Exeter Corn Exchange: Saturday 18th November

Earlier in the month saw a big vegan event in Exeter:
Futures Forum: World Vegan Day: Weds 1st November in Exeter

Another is happening tomorrow:


Don't forget the Big Day this Saturday:

10 am - 4.30 pm
Exeter Corn Exchange

"A cruelty-free wonderland is coming to Exeter this Saturday, so please do join us for a great day out. There will be delicious vegan versions of many traditional foods including Cornish pasties, hotdogs, cheeses, quiches, pies and tarts, sushi and lasagne, mince pies and cream, and a wide range of cakes. There will also be free food tasting, a great value all-day restaurant, a comedy show, music, talks, demonstrations, recipes and information to take away – plus a chance to win some lovely prizes.
As well as an enormous range of plant-based foods, the festival gives people an ideal opportunity to buy original, cruelty-free Christmas gifts and cards and at the same time to support charities and local traders. We will have fair trade clothes, chocolates galore, local and sustainable arts and crafts, non animal-tested cosmetics and household goods."

Plus.... don't miss our very own Rob Masterson's "10 Steps to Going Vegan" and Ali Brantingham's top tips for vegan Christmas treats. Here's the running order for the day:

11.30am - 10 Steps to Going Vegan
Talk and workshop by Rob Masterson of the Vegan Approach.

12.15pm - Help! What do I give to vegans at Christmas?!
Ali Brantingham presents healthy (and not-so-healthy) edible vegan gift ideas to make for that special vegan, or non-vegan, in your life. There will be samples to try and, for those less comfortable in the kitchen, there will be general tips on buying presents. 

1pm – 1.15 pm - Exeter University World Music Choir 
A break from the shopping to listen to beautiful singing on the main stage

2pm –  C’est La Vegan
Comedian Dave Chawner brings his award-winning show to Exeter. (Contains some swearing: not suitable for children)
Admission is free - and there are some great free gifts for the first visitors through the door, kindly donated by Lush Cosmetics, Nak'd, Vegan Life magazine and Moo-Free.

For further details, see the event page here.
Last call for bookings for the LACS/EFFA Christmas meal at Herbies...
Please note Saturday is also the final deadline for bookings for our traditional joint celebration with the League Against Cruel Sports on Friday 1 December, so any outstanding deposits must be sent in to Pete by then (please contact us for details of how to pay). Or if you're coming to Christmas Without Cruelty you can pay him there and then at the League Against Cruel Sports stall.


- Friday 1 December, 7 for 7.30 pm: Joint LACS/EFFA Christmas meal at Herbies (event page here).
Saturday 2 DecemberBarnfield charity car park. Running the car park to raise funds for animal causes.
- Saturday 16 December: TAUNTON VEGAN FAIR, 11 am - 4.30 pm, Wilton Church Hall, Fons George, Taunton TA1 3JT. The vegan festive fun continues! With over 20 stalls (including EFFA) and 3 caterers, cafe, talks, etc. See the event page for details.

EFFA: Welcome to Exeter Friends For Animals

Rethinking public services

We have to do something about our public services - but what?

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury gave a speech last month offering some constructive ideas:
The freedom to deliver: smarter public services for a new age of ambition - GOV.UK

Which reflects the approach from management consultants McKinsey in a report from 2013:
Government by design: Four principles for a better public sector | McKinsey & Company

But the debate is more than making public services 'smarter' by 'better design': there are basic principles at stake.

The public were polled earlier this year on a question which has come back to haunt us:
YouGov | Nationalisation vs privatisation: the public view

Whilst these ideas have been around for some time now
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services | The Independent

... they are gaining some traction - with new groups forming to lobby on them:
10 reasons why privatisation is bad for you | We Own It

And one crucial notion is the idea that public services can be run like private businesses.

This is being increasingly questioned:
Trying to run a public service like a business will never work | Kerry-anne Mendoza | Society | The Guardian

And it's not just the usual suspects who are questioning these notions - as this piece from Forbes magazine in 2012 lays out:
Why Government Should Not Be Run Like A Business - Forbes

As this does from Stanford University:
Government as Government, not Business | Stanford Social Innovation Review

Or as suggested by the East Devon Watch this week:
Public services are not, and should not be, businesses | East Devon Watch
The NHS Trainwreck - Funding of a Public Service | Ninian Peckitt | Pulse | LinkedIn

Meanwhile, monies destined for the public purse are going elsewhere:
Paradise Papers: Tax haven secrets of ultra-rich exposed - BBC News

As just pointed out by the former chair of the Public Accounts Committee:

Tax avoidance is ‘damaging public services’, says responsible tax APPG chair

16 Nov 17
Tax avoidance is “utterly and totally immoral and wrong” and is “damaging public services”, the chair of the all-party-parliamentary group for responsible tax has told the House of Commons.

Margaret Hodge told MPs it was impossible to measure how much tax is lost through ‘tax havens’ but estimated it ran into hundreds of millions of pounds every year.
“It damages the public services our taxes are used to fund,” she said, at an emergency debate on tax avoidance and evasion on Tuesday, which she had called. “At a time when the NHS is under such pressure, when public sector workers have had their wages held down for years and our schools are struggling to deliver the best start for all our children, for the super-rich and the powerful to think that they can opt out of their duty to contribute fairly through paying taxes is completely and utterly and totally immoral and wrong, and it is our responsibility to put an end to it.”
Hodge, the former chair of the Public Accounts Committee, added: “It is impossible to measure accurately how much tax is lost through the presence of tax havens, but it runs into hundreds of millions of pounds every year.”
She also pointed out that developing countries lose three times as much in tax avoidance as they gain from the global investment in international aid.
The Labour MP for Barking called for the debate in the wake of the so-called Paradise Papers leak, which were 13.4 million documents showing politicians, celebrities, corporate giants and business leaders had hoarded cash in overseas ‘tax havens’.
She demanded the government do more to tackle “systemic” tax avoidance and evasion, and for the chancellor Philip Hammond to consider the issue when he sets out his autumn Budget next week. Hodge wants to see multinational companies compelled to report their activity and profits on a country-by-country basis, and for UK’s overseas territories and Crown dependencies to publish public registers.
She also said at the debate “resourcing HMRC is absolutely central to the fight against tax avoidance and evasion”.
Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne North, at the debate raised the concern about the effect Brexit may have on tackling tax avoidance and evasion because “global tax abuse clearly requires international co-operation”.  
“Tax avoidance should be not an issue that divides us, but one on which we work together in the interests of all taxpayers,” Hodge answered.
Conservative backbencher Anna Soubry told MPs at the debate the government had an “excellent record” on the issue, adding that since 2010 the government had secured £160bn from tackling avoidance, evasion and non-compliance and £2.8bn from offshore tax evaders, and invested £1.8bn in HMRC to tackle avoidance and evasion.
Mel Stride, the financial secretary to the Treasury, noted the government had brought the tax gap, the difference between what the government could potentially bring in by way of tax and what it actually brings in, to 6% - a “historical low, a world-beating figure”. She said if the Conservatives had not done this “there would be £45bn less in our Exchequer”.
The debate was a day after Oxfam called for the UK government to “step up efforts to make tax more transparent”, at an all-party parliamentary group for responsible tax event on Monday.
The cross-party APPG on responsible tax was established in September 2015 with the aim of building and maintaining a fair tax system. 

Tax avoidance is ‘damaging public services’, says responsible tax APPG chair | Public Finance

Thursday, 16 November 2017

A solution to our housing problems: forget about building more houses

There are enough houses out there:
Futures Forum: The solution to our housing problems: forget about 'supply and demand'

Which means that we don't need to build any more:

Why Building More Houses is Not the Answer

Tom Chance, Anne Chapman and Maya de Souza explain why the market can't solve the housing crisis.

At the 2015 Conservative Party Conference David Cameron announced the beginning of a "national crusade to get houses built. That means banks lending, government releasing land and, yes, planning being reformed." The Prime Minister's call to arms reflects the widely held view that the current housing crisis results from a failure to build enough new houses, causing a restricted supply and inflated prices. Increase the supply of houses, so the theory goes, and housing will inevitably become more affordable, so build, build, build! It is a view shared by organizations as diverse as Shelter, The Town and Country Planning Association, Policy Exchange, and Generation Rent.1
However the laws of supply and demand are not always that simple. In his seminal work on famine Amartya Sen showed that lack of supply was a minor factor in comparison with the ability to buy. In the great Bengal famine people "died in the streets in front of shops bulging with grain."2 Similarly in situations of wealth inequality, a segment of the population may not be able to afford the market price of housing, no matter how many houses are built.
In the mid 1990s, houses in many parts of the UK (with the exception of London and the South East) were relatively affordable. In less prosperous areas there were signs of housing markets collapsing: in localized areas of low demand, houses that had previously fetched £40,000 were by the early 2000s being sold for £10,000 or less. In the north-west of England a likely cause was the oversupply of new housing on peripheral sites — more housing had been built or given planning permission than the household projections suggested was needed.3
These falling prices triggered a spiral of neglect and then abandonment because housing markets do not behave as markets are supposed to. Property is an investment, bought in the expectation that its value will rise in the future. If prices start falling in an area, this does not stimulate demand but curtails it. Property is not maintained as the expenditure on maintenance will not be recouped by an increase in value, so the quality of the stock and the area declines, prices fall even further, and properties are eventually abandoned. In the North West this cycle of decline was checked when the Regional Planning Guidance introduced restraint policies to reduce the level of building.4


What has happened in the intervening 15 years to take us from a situation of over-supply in many locations to today's crisis of affordability? At the most basic level, demand must have grown much faster than supply, pushing up prices. But is that demand a symptom of the numbers of households seeking housing, or of the amount of money available to be spent on housing?
The impression conveyed by advocates of a house-building crusade is that the construction of new homes has not kept pace with the increase in population and the number of households. This is incorrect, at least up to the date of the last census in 2011. Between 2001 and 2011, according to government figures, the average annual increase in households is estimated to have been 158,000 while an average of 161,000 new dwellings per year were built.5 The campaigning website Positive Money states that in the ten years up to the financial crisis of 2007/8 we built three new homes for every four new people — more than enough for all the new people to live in.6
Part of the reason for building more houses than were actually needed was the fact that the projected increase in the number of households turned out to be overestimated by a factor of 20 percent. There were a million fewer single person households than anticipated: "About one fifth (200,000) was probably due to more adult sons and daughters living with their parents. However this was far from being the sole cause."7
Moreover, not only have we been building a sufficiency of new homes, we have been adding to the ones we already have, with loft conversions, extensions etc. So now there are more rooms per person than ever before, with more than enough to allow everyone to have a spare bedroom.8


The major issue is not the amount of housing relative to the number of households but its distribution. Some people are "house rich" with far more space than they need, while others struggle to find a home that they can afford. The English Housing Survey for 2013-2014 shows that half of all owner-occupiers were under-occupying their home — defined as having two or more rooms above the bedroom standard.9 By contrast just 15 percent of private renters and 10 per cent of social renters were underoccupying. The same survey shows three per cent of all homes to be overcrowded: one per cent of owner occupied homes, five per cent of privately rented and six per cent of social rented housing.
Not only do some people have a great deal of space in their home, but they have a second property as well that is not being lived in by someone else. In 2012/3 the English Housing Survey found 752,000 second homes — about three per cent of the 22.6 million homes in England. While this may not seem like a large figure, in some communities the impact of second homes is significant, raising the price of homes above the reach of those on local wages. The number of second homes is scheduled to increase to nearly one million by 2031.10
Other homes are not being used at all, with just over 635,000 homes empty at any one time — 216,000 of those for more than 6 months. The total number of empty homes is over ten times the number of homeless households placed in temporary accommodation.11 Other homes are empty for shorter periods of time, most significantly in the private rented sector, where short term tenancies often require people to move frequently. In the final quarter, privately rented homes were typically empty for 2.6 weeks in the year — five per cent of the time. This is equivalent to 220,000 empty properties.


There are few grounds for attributing the current high cost of housing to an absolute shortage of homes. Effective demand in the housing market is not a function of the number of households seeking homes, but of the amount of money available to purchase housing. Prices have risen since the mid-1990s because the available amount has risen substantially. Two factors have contributed to this: an increase in the attractiveness of investment in housing, compared to alternative investments; and a growth in the availability of credit, resulting from the securitization of mortgage debt.
The stage was set by the deregulation of the private rental sector, and the abolition of the "fair rents" scheme, through the Housing Act 1988. Under this Act, by 1997 all new private tenancies were, by default, assured shorthold tenancies. which — when the tenancy expires, or with the appropriate notice period — provide landlords with the power to repossess without needing to provide a reason.
These legal changes enabled the explosion of the buy-to-let phenomenon over the following two decades. The buy-to-let mortgage was introduced in 1996: unlike people buying a property to occupy it themselves, buy-to-let landlords (until 2017) can offset their mortgage interest against the income they receive for tax purposes, and most take out interest-only mortgages on the expectation of paying off the capital when they sell the property.12 A study published in April 2015 suggests that investors in buy-to-let have reaped massive returns, gaining on average 1,400 percent since 1996 — four times more than equivalent investments in commercial property, government bonds or shares.13 These profits have been subsidised by taxpayers' money, insofar as unaffordable rents have been met by housing benefit payments.
The enthusiasm for investing in rental property has been fuelled by a corresponding decline in faith in other more conventional forms of investment. The stock market by February 2015 had only just recovered to its peak of the end of 1999, just before the dot.com bubble burst, and has now fallen back to below that peak. One commentator has concluded that "the total real return of the FTSE 100 over this period is only negligibly different from zero".14 A stagnant stock market and low interest rates have reduced returns to pension funds. Low interest rates to savers, particularly since 2008, mean that many people's savings have lost value in the face of inflation. All these facts have led to people regarding housing as their preferred secure long term investment.
Meanwhile the banks have been equally willing to lend money for house buying. In the UK, 97 per cent of the money in circulation is created by banks lending money that otherwise would not exist.15 In the 40 years up to 2009, banks increased the amount of money in the economy by an average of 11.5 per cent a year, which is 3.1 per cent a year over what is required to offset inflation and reflect the increase in GDP.16 In 2011, 65 percent of this money was invested in the property market, and 20 percent in financial institutions, with only 15 percent going into the rest of the economy17 — with the result that the value of property has risen faster than other sectors of the economy.
The bubble burst with the credit crunch of 2007/8. Sharp falls in house prices followed, and mortgage lending plummeted. The government responded firstly by lowering interest rates, which bolsters house and land prices by reducing the attractiveness of alternative investments; and secondly by introducing more money into the economy through the bond market (quantitative easing). It is likely that much of this money has been invested in housing, helping to drive the sky-rocketing prices seen in London.


It might be argued that, even though the main cause of the crisis is the amount of money being put into housing rather than too many households seeking too few homes, increasing the rate of housebuilding will surely add to the supply and in the end bring prices down to an affordable level. In theory, yes. However it is uncertain how many homes would need to be built and there are considerable risks and costs.
(i) Will New Housing Go into the Right Hands?
Building new homes doesn't necessarily mean homes for those who need them. Given the huge inequalities in wealth, the market is more likely to furnish more second homes for some UK residents, and investment opportunities for wealthy foreigners looking for a safe haven for their money, than to provide homes for people in need. To make housing more affordable, new housing developments would have to reduce house prices in their local area. But a recent study by the LSE which looked at eight large new developments built in the last five years, found that prices in the local area did not fall after completion, and in some cases they went up.18
(ii) The Risk of Market Collapse
On the other hand there is a danger of overshooting by building too many dwellings. The recent history of low demand areas such as the north west of England, and the spectre of abandoned newly-constructed housing in Ireland and Spain after the crash of 2008, should serve as a warning. House prices in Ireland started to fall before the banking crisis and it is likely that those falls contributed to the crisis in Ireland. By 2010 the price of residential property in Dublin had fallen by more than 56 per cent and there was a glut of empty and unsold property — "ghost estates" of newly built houses.
(iii) Environmental Costs
The carbon footprint of building a new two bedroomed house has been calculated at 80 tonnes (over eight times a UK citizens' current average annual footprint, which has to be reduced by 80 per cent by 2050).19 This direct carbon cost of building new homes is only the tip of the iceberg. New homes need maintaining, as does the infrastructure associated with them: streets, lighting, electricity, sewers, gas and telecommunications etc. They need to be kept warm or cool. And every new house requires carpets, curtains, furniture, electric goods and endless other items. New houses are likely to increase the amount of car transport; and they can destroy valuable countryside or wildlife rich brownfield sites.
Every £1 spent on housebuilding is said to generate £1.40 across the economy as a whole.21 The multiplier effect that building new homes has on other goods and services is of course the underlying reason why those who want to increase economic growth want to build more. If a government's objective is to stimulate economic growth through housebuilding then it has an incentive to manage the economy so that the rich continue to cream off a disproportionate share of the housing stock, while demand for housing lower down the social ladder is never satisfied.


There are many different ways in which the crisis of housing affordability and its underlying causes can be tackled without embarking on a risky and unsustainable house building bonanza. We have listed in the box on the next page the main measures that could be taken [please download pdf to view box - see link above/text below]. Just as the looming crisis in the health service requires changes in other policy fields such as transport and food, solving the housing crisis requires more than just addressing the areas normally covered by housing policy. Housing needs to be seen in the context of investment policies, the creation and distribution of money, and regional and generational inequalities. Changes to the benefits system, tax and investment policies, credit controls and regional planning can all play a part. Probably the most important key to achieving a long term solution is to redirect the flow of money currently going into private housing and channel it into more productive investments, in particular those needed to address climate change and reduce dependency on fossil fuels.
Reliance on the market has manifestly failed to provide homes that ordinary people can afford. Overleaf we offer a menu of common-sense steps that can be taken to ensure a stable supply of genuinely affordable homes that will reduce inequality, minimize environmental impact and strengthen communities. 

This article has been drawn from a 38-page Green House report Tackling our Housing Crisis: Why Building more Houses will not Solve the Problem, by Tom Chance, Anne Chapman and Maya de Souza. The original is available from www.greenhousethinktank.org


1. Shelter, Building the Homes We Need, 2015; Neil McDonald and Christine Whitehead, New Estimates of Housing Requirements 2012-2037, TCPA Tomorrow Series Paper 17, Nov 2015. Patrick Collinson, “The Other Generation Rent: Meet the People Flatsharing in their Forties”, Guardian 25/9/15.

2. Amartya Sen, Poverty and Famine, Oxford UP 2003.
3. Draft Regional Planning Guidance for the North West, Public Examination, Report of the Panel 2001.
4.Government Office for the North West, Regional Planning Guidance for the North West (RPG13) TSO, 2003.
5, DCLG figures from Alan Holmans, New Estimates of Housing Demand and Need in England, 2011 to 2031, TCPA 2013; Dwelling Stock Estimates: 2011, Department of Communities and Local Government.
6. Why Are House Prices So High? (video) http://www.positivemoney.org/issues/houseprices
7. Holmans op cit 5.
8. Danny Dorling, All that is Solid: How the Great Housing Disaster Defines Our Times, and What We Can Do About It, Penguin 2014.
9. DCLG, English House Survey, Headline Report 2013-14, 2015, www.gov.uk
10. Holmans op cit 5.
11. DCLG, op cit 9.
12. Council of Mortgage Lenders, Buy to Let Mortgages, http://www.cml.org.uk/consumers/about-mortgages/buy-to-let-mortgages/, 2014.
13. Hilary Osborne, “Buy-to-Let Landlords Earn Returns of up to 1,400% since 1996”, The Guardian, 11 April, 2015.
14. Arief Daynes, FTSE 100 to Burst through 7,000? Not Before Election Day, http://theconversation.com, 2 March 2015.
15. Michael McLeay et al, “Money in the Modern Economy; an Introduction”, Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin, Q1 2014 http://www.bankofengland.co.uk16. Bank of England Statistical Interactive Database: www.bankofengland.co.uk; email from Graham Hodgson of Positive Money to the editors, 16 /9/15. 
17. Sectoral lending figures from the Bank of England, cited in Positive Money, How Money Works: How Much Money Have Banks Created?, http://positivemoney.org/ 
18.Whitehead et al, Understanding the Local Impact of New Residential Development: a Pilot Study, LSE, 2015.
19 M Berners-Lee, How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything, Profile Books, 2010, pp149-150.
20. J Essex, “How to Make-Do and Mend Our Economy” in J Bewitt and R Cunningham, The Post-Growth Project: How the End of Economic Growth Could Bring a Fairer and Happier Society, Greenhouse, 2014, pp 71-105.

Why Building More Houses is Not the Answer | The Land Magazine

Click on the pdf link below for the 'box of solutions':


An interesting blog:
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