Opinion – The economics of buy-to-let: Are landlords to blame for Britain’s housing crisis? | The Economist – John Gelmini

English: Housing in London, UK

English: Housing in London, UK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dr Alf makes good points and ‘no’, buy-to-let landlords are not responsible for the housing crisis which predates their very existence by something like 35 years.

Indeed, they are performing a useful social service, which bloated local authorities, Housing Associations and the UK building trade are failing to deliver.

The housing crisis first-started after World War II, when many Londoners were homeless after the Luftwaffe pounded much of the East End slums into rubble but failed to kill-off the people in anything like sufficient numbers to facilitate a solution to the housing crisis in the making. These unfortunate people were rehoused in Basildon, Harlow, Haverhill and Stevenage, which blighted six beautiful Hertfordshire villages, and the estates which resulted have since been transformed into newer slums. (See my related article on poverty).

The pace of building was never sufficient, and after Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan promised to build 3 million council houses, he found that with 45 million people and Englishmen unable and unwilling to make bricks that he had 10 million too many people by 1953. His answer was to sell the surplus population to Australia and Canada, via the “Assisted-Migration Program”, and a secret subsidy of £2,695 gbp per head (men, woman and children). This removed some people but not enough, so you then had the “Cathy Come Home” syndrome of homelessness and waiting lists in 1964.

By the 1990s, under figures produced by civil service Mandarins, with supposedly “razor-sharp minds”, we have shortages calculated under “Predict and Provide” of 4.4 million houses.

Then, we had a shortage of construction workers and dentists, so the then Labour Government, in the form of Blunkett and Blair, encouraged 1 million Poles to step into the breach, whilst pretending that just 13,000 would come here.  Flash forward to today and Corbyn, Burnham, Kendall, Harman, Umana (the so called Labour Leadership contenders including one dropout and the acting temporary leader Harriet Harman) and the then Labour leadership said very little about this, so the housing shortage went up to 5.4 million because the Poles had to live somewhere.

Since then, we have had 7 million additional illegal immigrants, as evidenced by the number of notes and coins in circulation, the amount of food sold in supermarkets (more than the official population could possibly eat), and the number of school admissions in mid-term by undocumented children and parents.

We currently build 100,000 houses a year and have a shortage of 12 million houses, representing 120 years of conventional construction which we will never meet.

The solution is not just more houses but a new approach to systems-building, which we could copy from Germany’s Hof Haus and by 3D printing of houses on brownfield land.

In addition, we need to think about building council estates/social housing and prisons underground and beaming in sunlight via sunpipes, whilst moving Adult Social Care recipients and dementia patients without relatives to warmer climates in India and Thailand, where they can be looked after and housed at a fraction of the UK costs.

John Gelmini

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