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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

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As I was driving to work this morning there was a piece on radio 4 about rural housing. It ran the usual line of

"People born and raised in the countryside cannot afford to buy houses in the area where they are as so many commuters, retirees etc buy up everything. Therefore we need to build more affordable housing in the countryside."

This is BULLSHIT and so short sighted its untrue. In Shepton Beauchamp a few years ago about a dozen "affordable" houses were built. Within less that 5 years most of them were owned by retired people. Now I know that one person bought one of the "affordable" houses and then sold it at a tidy profit to remain living in the village in a different house he could now afford. I dont think that was the case for everyone else though. And of course someone raised in the village could not now afford the affordable house as the value had gone up so much.

If you build more affordable houses in the countryside you are just increasing the stock of houses for migrants to the area to buy up in the long run. Thats making the problem worse not better.

The only way to have affordable houses in the countryside is to go back to the council house system. I know many people lived in them for years paying rent when they could have invested in their own house they owned. But the thing is they lived more or less where they wanted to. The housing stock was not subject to the market and it meant that things were more balanced. Artifically balanced but thats what it took.

A while ago when there was that 100 million quid lottery jackpot up for grabs Rae asked me what good works I would do with all the money if I won it. My reply was that I would set up a charitable organisation that bought up as much "good value" rural housing as possible and then either leased or rented it out at fair prices to local people. That way you could control who took up the houses and maintain checks and balances. Properly managed I bet it would even turn a tidy profit that could be invested in yet more houses.

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