Tuesday, August 07, 2007

What housing crisis?

A recent report by the housing federation claimed its research showed housing prices would continue to rise. This despite the governments claims it would vastly increase house building. This was because the rise in households would continue its relentless increase, and there was just not enough housing stock to deal with it.

Want some interesting statistics? The rise is households is significantly greater than the rise in population. The rise in population is due primarily to immigration, not organic growth (ie more babies). Without immigration the population would likely begin a slight fall.

So, we have a problem, not enough houses. Yet I can’t help thinking that building more houses is dealing with the symptom rather than the cause. This country, almost uniquely in the G8, has maintained its green space in a relatively unspoiled manor. There is more forest in Britain today, than there was 100 or even 50 years ago. At a time when global warming is the crisis of the day, how can we even remotely consider building more houses?

Worse, we live in a country where the infrastructure is already insufficient. We will run out of land fill sites within the next 10 years. Main trunk roads are already over utilised. The alternative transport systems, trains, are also suffering from over use. There are worries about the supply of water, as seen in the last couple of years, and the sewage systems. Building more houses just adds to the burden of all of the former.

Try looking at the root causes instead. Why is household growth greater than population growth? Very simple, there is a net increase in the number of single adult households. Fewer people are living together as couples or even extended families than in the past. This simple fact seems completely ignored in the analysis.

Yet government policy continues to support single adult families. You get more benefits as a lone parent than as a couple. Divorce has been made increasingly easy. Common law couples are given more rights, which discourages marriage (married couples, despite the high divorce rate, are more likely to stay together, and for longer, than unmarried couples). We have a government quite happy to meddle in social affairs, so why not reverse the trends they have set?

Next is population growth. I’ll declare self interest. I am an immigrant to this country. I believe immigration is healthy and wise. Its is a known economic truth that immigration in the developed world leads to GDP growth (the measure of a country’s net wealth). That growth is significant enough that it means a net increase in GDP per person, which means the input from immigration is more than an average individual. This is down to numerous causes, but can be simplified. Immigrants can be crudely separated into two piles. The first pile is highly educated professionals who work in areas that greatly increase net wealth. The other pile is highly motivated, but unskilled. These take up the jobs that natives don’t like, and thus free up the native population to take on education and higher wealth increasing work.

However, when is it immigration enough or too much? Some immigration is healthy, too much, when it puts such a strain on the infrastructure is unhealthy. I don’t know what the figure should be, but when you hear that 10% of the population of the UK has come here in the last 10 years, something’s wrong. It is too much.

I just hope and pray that decisions aren’t made now on the symptoms, that loose the precious ecology of our countryside that will never be regained. Lets look to the real causes first.


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