We’ve lost our belief in the ability of governments to make the world a better place.
Today, we put our belief in markets, and feel it’s the job of government to simply manage, rather than inspire or bring about change.
In UK housing, this has created a paradox. The free market has created the situation where there is strong demand, limited supply, and prices spiralling ever further out of reach of the average individual, especially in London and the South East.
And yet, in the face of this issue, the call is for government intervention to increase supply — but not to interfere with the mechanics of the market.
Given that the problem is getting worse, not better, it is time to recognise that if the property industry — and society — really want this issue to start to be solved, there needs to be greater intervention
in the market than they would normally countenance.
The Smith Institute last week called for a national investment bank to drive housing growth. This is a good idea, particularly to increase lending to small housebuilders who, in spite of the recent improvement in credit conditions, are still finding access to funding difficult.
What about another radical idea: a national housebuilder to complement this? A mandate to provide the housing that is needed, where it is needed and in the format it is needed. First dibs on public land, fast-track planning powers, and a mandate to break even and create housing that is affordable — no special dividend for shareholders.
Not all government intervention is good, as the shonky thinking on new CGT rules shows.
But it is needed. Investors, and increasingly the government, are recognising that housing is part of the UK’s key infrastructure. It is blindingly obvious that access to housing at a cost reflecting an affordable level of people’s net income, either through ownership or renting, is the biggest economic differentiator of our age.
It may take something as far-sighted as the creation of the NHS to solve this problem. We need to believe that government can make the world a better place again.
Good-bye, but it’s not Adieu, Auf Wiedersehen
After eight amazing years (or six if you discount two years spent as a double agent at another weekly real estate publication you may or may not have heard of) today is my last day at Property Week.
As those of you on Twitter will know, in September I will be relaunching EuroProperty, the magazine devoted to crossborder investment in Europe and the UK, which my former colleague Mark Cooper has bought from Reed Business Information. At the start of the next European economic cycle, we think there’s a need for a serious magazine devoted to news and analysis of crossborder investment.
I feel privileged to have been able to call myself editor of Property Week for just more than a year, and to have worked with so many fantastic journalists and colleagues, and I’d like to thank them all.
I’m immensely proud of some of the journalism we’ve undertaken in the past year. Bringing the biggest landlords in the country to account on why they won’t allow the Big Issue to be sold in their centres, our unique Sino-English conference with ABP and Savills, last year’s Recovery Special and, most of all, our Open Plan diversity campaign (see Feedback, p12) all stand out.
I won’t say a long farewell to the industry, as I’ll still be up in your business, but I’d like to thank all of you for the incredible support and goodwill you’ve shown to me and to Property Week, not just in the last year, but over the course of the past almost quarter century, it is truly remarkable.
Property Week is an organisation with a unique spirit and attitude, instilled by the previous lineage of editors, I hope upheld by me, and which will no doubt be taken forward by my successor, The Grocer’s Liz Hamson, a fine journalist who is returning to Property Week after a decade. I am sure you will make her feel as welcome as you have me.