Sir Ming is a nice gentleman, but he really should stop listening to his party, as they are a bunch of morons, judging by this latest crop of ideas. I suspect in their impatience for results they did not wait for anything productive to grow, but just harvested the manure they spread shortly beforehand.
Sir Ming is right, sort of, when he says that Labour is ghettoising housing, leaving poor and vulnerable people living on large ‘sink estates’ which offered little hope or opportunity. He also said it was a national disgrace that one million children still lived in overcrowded accommodation and 130,000 children lived in temporary housing.
However, Sir Ming forgot to mention that it was not Labour that ghettoised people or created 'sink estates' per se. In my view it is the very concept of State-built/run/subsidised social housing that creates these problems. Sir Ming also forgets to mention the proportion of all these suffering children that were intentionally born into such conditions by their parent or parents and that the State actively encourages such births due to the prevailing mechanisms of Welfarism.
Sir Ming is, however, bang on when he says VAT should not apply to housing renovations, which are, in effect, necessities in most of the cases or if not they tend to increase Council Taxes. This is more an issue of taxation, not Social Housing, however.
Moving on to the other "ideas", we see they are strangers to reason.
Gerroff Moi Laaan'
He intends to allow local authorities to buy land zoned as farmland at farmland prices, re-zone it and then sell it on for a proft. This is almost jaw-droppingly naive, scandalous, corruptible, totalitarian hogwash. Local councils are bad enough without allowing them to get their greedy hands on land for redevelopment by their squalid golfing partners while taking a slice in to the bargain. On one level you can see that they have a point, for the council does get some form of payback for the increase in value of that land due to re-zoning but the mechanism and mode is so utterly ham-fisted and open to abuse. I have long considered Lib-Dems to be naive fools and this proves it yet again. Now, if the council built a tram line or electric trolleybus infrastructure - cables, transformers etc - to serve the land (note: not some poxy excuse of a bus service that will be withdrawn once the bunting is down) then I could understand more, for they would be seriously increasing the value of that land and integrating it into the community. However, as it stands the "idea" denies the original landowner its true value and tempts local councils to re-zone for fiscal purposes (which is polite) not community benefit. The scope for corruption is immense.
Would it not be better to allow land to be bought by developers of transport - rail, tram or trolley companies, for example - subject to local referendum, who then are the people to sell off the land for housing development once the infrastructure is in place? London grew like this. Surely we want people to live in houses with predictable, non-polluting forms of transport into centres of employment. Better still, build the housing right over certain stretches of the new railway and even over some stations. Hong Kong does this all the time. Each rail station becomes a massive high rise hub of housing, shops, offices. The MTR of Hong Kong works its assets hard and most benefit. Maybe it is indeed TfL that does the expansion into the Thames Gateway. They get the land, build the rail, tram, tube connections and develop the immediate station and air rights, then sell off the land around to fund the project. This might reduce some of the issues that happened around the Jubilee extension. If someone has a better idea, I am all ears!
Rental by Any Other Name
Another concept is equity sharing, but in this case the Lib-Dems want to not only control the price that the original property is sold at, but to also control the RESALE price too. This would mean, in effect, that once people are in such properties it is highly likely they will have to remain in such, limiting their choices in terms of purchaser and next home. They are unlikely to achieve "escape velocity" unless the housing market seriously crashes and then they would probably have achieved it anyway without the risk of a mortgage! Alas, this is a manifestation of do-goodery and patronising infantilisation of the population. It will simultaneously distort the market, imprison people and subject them to risks they would otherwise not encounter. They should be honest about what the true effect would be and just say they want to build Section Houses, Nursing Staff Quarters etc. for key workers and be done with it.
Communism by Any Other Name
The idea of spreading about the problem of sink estates has been bandied about by both NeueArbeit and the Lib-Dumbs. We already suffer from borderline Communism in planning where people are forced to build in "affordable housing" into their schemes which means the State has its dirty, interfering fingernails into each private housing project. This takes it further and seeks to spread out the sink estates like some perverse blend of homeopathic plague. Sink estates are not sinks because they are large, but because of the nature of some of the people in them and the nature of the relationship between the residents and their landlord, the State. Note that private Social housing rarely if at all becomes a sink estate. Spreading them about will not change the nature of the people, nor the landlord. In fact all it will do is make the total impact of the small number of dysfunctional residents more widespread. The State is an appalling landlord. "Social Housing" is by definition antisocial.
To resolve this:
- The Welfare State should be a safety net, not a hammock in which entire lives can be conceived, grow and then reproduce again.
- Housing to be provided mostly by the voluntary and private sectors where there is no "right" to housing, as all that "right" does is result in a hard, unwanted, unavoidable obligation on the taxpayer to provide it. If the obligation were truly desired, i.e. voluntary, then those individuals who wish to gladly pay money towards subsidised housing can fund the voluntary sector (OK?).
- Immigrants should not be provided State housing as they are, by definition, economic migrants and as such should be capable of looking after themselves.
- People who increase the size of their families while living in State housing either via additional children, marriage or the accumulation of "dependents" should not be considered for review of living space.
- Confirmed, granted Asylum seekers should be given time-limited assisted housing (say 6 months) until they are also economically active (which we are told they mostly are, right?) and then market rates should apply.
- We have many people not economically active including vast amounts of the 900,000 of Gordon's paper-pushing "salaried unemployed" whilst importing or at least allowing the inflow of labour. That needs to change.
The Lib Dem solution is like trying to cure dysentery by handing out nappies.
Fix the problem, not the symptom.