UK housing crisis hurts the young and the poor | Letters

Guardian readers air their views on high property prices, a lack of affordable housing, and rogue landlords

Gaby Hinsliff’s forebodings (If a house price crash sounds like good news, you should think again, 30 November) are for the haves, not the have-nots. Unless prices come back to a mortgageable multiplier of average local earnings, more and more young adults and families without inherited property wealth face a lifetime of insecure renting.

Neither is there much hope for them in “affordable homes” when developers can reduce or avoid provision if they argue that it would bring a scheme’s profit margin below 20%.

In an advanced society, the right to a secure home should be fundamental, but a home first and foremost, not an investment. Falling values will certainly create losers, some negative equity and discomfort for the banks, the latter of course bailed out by taxpayers, many of whom still can’t buy a house.

But that burgeoning cohort will be voting increasingly for radical intervention, ideally including council tax recalibration with a base rate on the main homes of UK taxpayers, higher rates for all others, and penal and escalating rates for those left empty. And if price falls then deter developers, designated or consented land should be compulsorily purchased at new value levels and its development orchestrated by government, something Oliver Letwin’s report touches upon for the biggest sites.

Crash or correction, call it what you like then, but right now unearned property wealth is blocking many from housing security and that cannot be allowed to continue.
John Worrall
Cromer, Norfolk

• Gaby Hinsliff has been drawn into a Thatcherite market view of the world. The answer is for the government to empower local authorities to take over land banks and to build social housing and affordable housing.

The market-driven approach caused the current problems, along with the politically driven view that owner occupation is best and social housing is to be wiped off the Earth. We have a speculation problem, not a housing problem (there are enough housing units available). The market will not solve the problem, it will simply concentrate wealth in fewer hands. A dramatic fall in house prices would give a one-off correction and lead to a more sustainable and fairer housing market. This will happen sometime as all bubbles burst.

House owners (I am one) have been supported by successive governments to the detriment of the non-house-owning sector for too long. This has led to an over-reliance on property assets for pension pots and has contributed to the over-pricing of the housing assets and a lack of quality affordable and rented housing. The cycle needs breaking.
Neil Goldsmith
Hayfield, Derbyshire

• At long last there is “thinking outside the box” with regard to providing houses for people desperate for homes to rent (Prefab comeback as new factories herald modular revolution in UK homebuilding, 30 November). The factory-produced houses by Ilke, although a great step forward, are hardly a housing “revolution” as your article suggests. For the first 20 years of my life I was brought up in a prefab. As a family we moved in just after the war.

Far from being “poor quality” they were excellent, giving us a fully fitted kitchen with a fridge (almost unheard of in 1946); a fitted bathroom; two large bedrooms, both with built in storage units. By today’s standards they probably were “poor quality” but they provided sound accommodation at affordable rents at a time, like now, when thousands of homes were needed urgently.

I have never understood why, with so many homeless people desperate for somewhere to live, we have not brought back prefab homes. But then of course Tory governments over the past few decades have not only stopped councils and housing associations from building rented properties but have starved them of funds to do so. For James Brokenshire to hail these new prefabs as a great housing revolution is not only ironic but insulting. Perhaps he should study social history a bit more.
Roy Baxandall
Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex

Jill Wallis’s letter (30 November) makes a good point regarding the disappearance of sought-after bungalows in favour of squeezing two houses on to the same sized plot. Unfortunately she is aiming at the wrong target. If a local authority’s local plan and guidelines allow for the plot of land that her neighbour’s bungalow stood on to be, in their view, large enough for two houses, then unfortunately that fixes the land value, which in this case must have exceeded the current value of the bungalow. It is perfectly possible for local planning authorities to mitigate this repetition by better use of their powers in determining different zoning in their local plans. Perhaps Jill could consider standing for the council and take up the fight.
Peter Adamson
Peldon, Essex

• From your article (MPs call for confiscation of rogue landlords’ properties, 30 November) it seems clear that the present government will take no further action against rogue landlords if we take what housing minister Heather Wheeler says at face value. Clive Betts’ committee might also look at housing needs in rural areas by charging owners of second homes at least double council tax, and/or empty properties, of which there are thousands, which should face even bigger penalties, if not lived in continuously for at least six months. The money collected should then go into local authority poll to pay for affordable housing.
David Selby
South Wonston, Winchester

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