Opinion – The cult of home ownership is dangerous and damaging – Adam Posen – FT.com – Best Blogs Series – John Gelmini

Dr Alf is right.

I wonder whether Adam Posen would be happy living in a council house or a development corporation house of the type built for Blitz victims for ex East End slum dwellers made homeless by the Luftwaffe and transplanted into Haverhill,Harlow and Basildon in Essex and Stevenage in Hertfordshire (where I live)?

Somehow, I doubt it because many of the descendants of those original East-Enders have transformed some of the most beautiful areas of countryside into slums every bit as bad as the ones their ancestors and relatives came from.

Dr Alf and I are in accord about the need for investment in language skills training, getting firms export ready and directors “match fit ” for expansion whilst using the tax system to promote inward investment and export led growth.

However, the distortions caused by the UK housing market are brought about by high house prices,  brought about by lack of house building. This in turn stems from an unwillingness by mortgage lenders and insurers to consider systems building, plus the lack of productivity of British workers, which induces UK employers to keep on hiring people from abroad.

The housing shortage (both rented and privately owned) is nearly 12 million houses, according to my calculations. I have a radical solution.

IKEA and Hof House could build perfectly sound, sustainable private dwellings and Housing Benefit recipients, prisoners and the long-term unemployed could be placed in hostels and converted shipping containers on brownfield sites and underground in estates on greenfield land, utilizing Japanese style sun-pipes to beam in sunlight. Billions would be saved on the Housing Benefits bill and on council tax benefit, plus of course, the unnecessary local authority staff employed to police these benefits. In this way, the Green Belt could be protected and the sight of slums in what were once attractive rural areas could be eliminated.

Home ownership could still be a cult as Adam Posen puts it but it would be made more affordable not by irresponsible lending but by building methods that used 3D printing and modern manufacturing methods, rather than conventional construction which uses tradesmen who are retiring, dying off and becoming like the dinosaurs of old, extinct.

John Gelmini

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