I have written before on this blog that my dad used to say, back in the 1970s, that the biggest mistake of the 1945 Labour Government was that it had not nationalised land. As a teenager growing up in apartheid South Africa, I had no idea what the 1945 Labour Government was, nor what nationalisation meant.
A report out this week, commissioned by 13 London councils, reports that the planning system has allowed land values in London to massively increase, and as a consequence reduce the delivery of affordable homes. House prices have almost doubled in London since 2008 and the development of affordable homes has fallen by 37%.
Developers are resisting expectations that a proportion of all new homes should be affordable. Increasingly in places like Brighton and Hove, councils, keen to see development, any development, cave in, allowing their commitment to affordable homes to be watered down.
Behind the spiralling cost of housing are a number of factors, including demand, building costs, profiteering and land costs.
An organisation like BHT would love to build homes, as we used to do, but the cost of land is beyond our reach. The price rockets the moment planning consent is given, and then developers tell councils that they can’t afford the affordable homes element that the planners have required.
I think my old dad had it right on this one. If land was in public ownership, as much land in and around Brighton is thanks to the wisdom of Herbert Carden, we could insist that the homes put on that land meet local need and would be more affordable if land and property speculators were removed from the equation.