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Letter: To Survive Economically We Need Housing For Highly Skilled Workers

Published on: 28 May, 2017
Updated on: 28 May, 2017

From Gordon Bridger

Hon Alderman and former Mayor of Guildford

Mr Wild in his letter: I Am Worried About the Impact of Proposed Planning Policy, provides some helpful comments on building costs and I would like to tap into his experience as we face a serious housing crisis, to a large extent self-created by the restrictions we place on land use. It is perfectly reasonable to do this but we need to strike a balance between private and public interests and short and long term ones.

The free market, in theory, provides the solution to private interests but not necessarily public interest. There are so many restrictions and pressures to house building that to attract highly skilled workers and entrepreneurs we need different policies.

If we are to survive economically we need to provide housing for younger highly skilled workers who cannot afford Guildford housing.

While the council has done good work in trying to provide welfare council housing, there is little evidence of how they are going to attract those workers with the highest gross value added (GVA).

They need to work out how this can be achieved: it is not easy and central government has not been very helpful in this respect. “Affordable” housing is scarcely the answer and even if some council housing is to be allowed we need to meet the needs of highly skilled workers as well.

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Responses to Letter: To Survive Economically We Need Housing For Highly Skilled Workers

  1. Neville Bryan Reply

    May 29, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    There is a way, but it requires a political will to make it happen

    It’s called council housing, built on council land….. with means-tested rents so as people pull away from basic salaries as some do, the house income moves towards market rents.

    It also means no students. The university has got sufficient land to accommodate these. It has chosen not to build them presumably because it wants to make inordinate money from Blackwell Farm. And by not enforcing previous agreements, GBC has created that problem, which it could solve. Again a choice it has made.

    There are areas in which the free market won’t work and in the South of England, housing is one of them. The housing market is now so badly broken, there is, now, likely to be no other way.

    Yes, that means you cannot have right to buy, but most people I believe now recognise the follies of that policy. GBC too has the land to build but again no will, or motivation.

    Over to the legislators.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    May 30, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    Here we go again, “a housing crisis”. Would Alderman Bridger please display these figures? Surely Guildford is a very low unemployment and jobs need to be generated where there is high unemployment. Take the jobs to the unemployed don’t drag them into areas which are too costly to live in, leaving them paupers for the remainder of their days, trying to pay off mortgages.

  3. Ben Paton Reply

    May 31, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    Funnily enough, Mr Bridger appears to ignore the part of Mr Wild’s letter that completely discredits his assertions about the cost of land causing high house prices.

    Mr Bridger wrote:’ The average house price is around £400,000 and the actual building costs for an average house likely to be less than £150,000 – land costs are around 2/3rds of total costs.’ However, Mr Wild states that only about one-third of house costs derive from the cost of land. So Mr Bridger’s assertion has been refuted by a local house builder and shown to be a 100% exaggeration. Moreover, the house builder states, in so many words that the development profit is of the order of 30%, a handsome return by comparison with most industries.

    Passing over this small difference, Mr Bridger moves quickly to repeat his analysis that the cause of high house prices has been constraints on supply. He writes that the so-called “housing crisis” is “to a large extent self-created by the restrictions we place on land use”.

    In Mr Bridger’s analysis housing has been in the grip of some sort of state central planning and needs to be released by a British equivalent of Mr Yeltsin. This simply does not accord with the facts. The “presumption in favour of development” has been the norm in this country for centuries. It is now enshrined in the National Planning Policy Framework as the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” that is supposed to run like a “golden thread” through planning policy.

    The use of land is not excessively constrained in the UK. Outside the most densely populated and environmentally threatened areas landowners can do pretty much anything they like with their land.

    Since World War 2, the one area of the housing market where there has been a consensus that state intervention is needed is in social housing. The part of the supply of new housing that has collapsed precipitously since 1980 is local government building of social housing. That is the area where it is easiest to show objectively that there is a shortage of housing. And the shortage results directly from government policies.

    Mr Bridger’s apocalyptic vision of social collapse if the British do not import “highly skilled workers” and provide them with “affordable” housing is not supported by any objective evidence. How does Mr Bridger define highly skilled workers and what evidence does he have that, despite their high skills, they cannot afford to find accommodation in the borough?

    Mr Bridger appears to believe that British society is so senile and scelerotic that only bringing in highly skilled workers from abroad will save it from collapse. The draft Local Plan may be completely off the rails. But Mr Bridger’s nostrums will not improve it. They do not present an accurate statement of the current situation. So the inferences drawn are not a basis for sound policies.

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