Housing shortages and the collapse in public ownership of land

Since Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 some 2 million hectares of public land has been sold off, largely to private developers. As this useful FT piece makes clear it is the biggest privatisation we’ve never heard of.

It’s enriched developers and signally failed to encourage housebuilding on anything like the scale the country needs:

Throughout the past four decades, and especially since the global financial crisis, one of Whitehall’s principal justifications for driving the sale of public land has been to enable the private sector to build new homes on it. But it is increasingly clear that the private sector has under-delivered.

Much of the public land released to developers in recent years has not been built on but has instead simply been added to their already engorged land banks. The average number of years of housing supply sitting in the major UK housebuilders’ ‘current’ banks — those containing land that has, or is close to receiving, planning permission — doubled from around three in 2006 to around six a decade later.

Although Sir Oliver Letwin’s final report into landbanking practices was a damp squib, the letter he wrote to Philip Hammond and Sajid Javid midway through his investigations made clear the issue. When developers bank rather than build on land (including ex-public land) they do so not due to the alleged “web of commercial and industrial constraints” but because building too many homes too soon risks ‘disturbing the market price’ of housing. In other words, it hits profits.
— Read on ftalphaville.ft.com/2018/11/08/1541675709000/The-collapse-in-public-ownership-of-land/

Worth reading in full.

Housing shortages and the collapse in public ownership of land

Humpty Dumpty

Jack of Kent (the blog of legal expert and Brexit commentator, David Allen Green) posted this today – after the weekend of the biggest protest against leaving the EU without a second referendum. He doesn’t think it can or should happen and, to my mind, his argument makes sense. This is how he sums up:

So overall: there is not enough time for a referendum, the constitutional opportunities for checking (or slowing) Brexit have already come and gone, there will be no way to choose between competing mandates, the whole thing will be divisive, and it may not get the result its supporters want anyway.

This is not to say that those opposed to departure should give up.  They should carry on opposing with all their might until the very last moment, using any legal or political weapon available.  There is nothing wrong with that.

I would love this Brexit story to have the happy ending so many of you want, with the #PeoplesVote saving the day.   Sadly, however, this is likely to be a Brexit by Quentin Tarantino, and not by Walt Disney.

Five arguments against a #PeoplesVote – Jack of Kent blog:

I like Green because he speaks from a world of order and process when so much of our political life seems to have descended into abuse and ignorance.

My own perspective is that, while leaving the EU is going to be awful, undoing the first referendum before we leave – even if it were possible – would resolve nothing.

On 23 June 2016, like Humpty Dumpty, we fell off our wall. All the cracks and crazing that has disfigured our country for generations – the inequality, the short-termisim and greed, the desperate failure of politics – trapping us beyond nuance and representation in false oppositions – the weakness of our institutions, the poison of our public realm – all burst apart at once.

We are smashed now. The past is irretrievable. The only hope is to start some sober and realistic conversations about the future – if there is any medium or institution left to us where a thoughtful and open debate could be held.

Humpty Dumpty

Clog dancing

There was a fascinating exhibition at Compton Verney this summer all about ingenious automata and different mechanical models. There’s a good review – with links – here.

Lots of fun but, underneath, there was also a strand which explored our relationship with the machines we make. C and I were riveted by a video of clog dancing – steps learned from an elderly mill worker – demonstrating the dances that developed in counterpoint to the machines the women worked amongst. Here’s the video now. There are some introductory scenes (which are worth watching) but if its the dancing you’ve come for start at two minutes in.

Clog dancing

Brother Gorilla

I came across this on twitter today (posted by @SirWilliamD) and thought it the most moving (and uncomfortable) photograph I had seen in a long time. The caption was:

A poignant image of Guy the Gorilla in captivity at London Zoo c.1958 by Wolf Suschitzky. Taken by poking the camera through the bars. Wolf said he thought that this was his best photo.

Brother Gorilla