Features

How to build new houses and satisfy the Nimbys at the same time

People objecting to new housing developments in their neighbourhoods are acting perfectly rationally, says Merryn Somerset Webb. But there’s an easy solution: divert some of the landowners’ profits and buy them off.

181204-housing
Divert profits from the landowner to local residents

A few weeks ago, Mark Littlewood of the IEA think tank wrote a piece in The Times in which he wondered how the UK might deal with the many Nimbys holding back housebuilding in the UK and by extension causing the shortage of new homes and huge prices rises in the south over the last couple of decades.

We aren't 100% convinced that the housing problem is just about Nimbys easy credit, very low interest rates, the horrible mismanaged Help to Buy scheme and the sudden surge in demand caused by mass immigration have all played their part. But his solution is still interesting.

Right now, if you get planning permission for what was agricultural land, you get rich. Simple as that. The value of land that gets change of use rises on average by 13,000% or more around Cambridge, Oxford and London (think 28,000%).

Why, you might ask, should all that lovely value accrue mainly to the landowner (the council often gets a little cut) when it is his neighbours who will be taking the pain (building houses shouldn't be such a trial for those living near sites see my article here on modular housing but it is)?

Why not smooth troubled waters by offering some of the money to to homeowners in the area not in the form of vague promises about community projects but instead as direct cash transfers?

Right now Nimbys are surely acting rationally in objecting to development around them it will cut the market price of their own houses while putting pressure on the already inadequate services on which they depend. "A sizable and direct financial handout would radically alter their attitude." I bet it would.

We like the idea. It fits neatly with our views on, for example, wind farms (which also provide stunning windfalls to landowners). Why not, we said back in 2016 get anyone sticking up a windfarm to compensate all those complaining about the resulting inconvience and fall in the value of their houses with a direct payment in the form of a lump of cash or a 25-year annual payment.

That would surely make them keener on the whole thing than the usual system of the farm bunging some money into a community account and them leaving it in the hands of someone who might or might not be representing the community as defined by those living in the shadow of the turbines.

It also chimes with our support for the land value tax something which is designed to ensure that landowners do not benefit too much from amenities paid for by the taxpayer.

Building land in London is not worth 28,000% more than non-building land because of the landowner, but (in part at least) because of the state-funded amenities around it. So why should the landowner get all the loot?

We aren't expecting the UK tax system to go through a radical transformation any time soon (this never happens), but the fact that these ideas keep popping up rather suggests that, when it comes to land at least, some interesting thoughts about change are at least brewing.

Recommended

How long can the good times roll?
Economy

How long can the good times roll?

Despite all the doom and gloom that has dominated our headlines for most of 2019, Britain and most of the rest of the developing world is currently en…
19 Dec 2019
What are the best ways of raising more money in tax?
Economy

What are the best ways of raising more money in tax?

Given that whoever wins next week's election will be going on a massive spending spree, we're going to need to raise at least some of that money throu…
5 Dec 2019
What are the biggest mistakes investors make when it comes to tax?
Investment strategy

What are the biggest mistakes investors make when it comes to tax?

The tax implications of an investment are something we rarely consider until after the event. That could prove to be an expensive mistake, says Domini…
27 Nov 2019
Why the government shouldn't raise taxes
UK Economy

Why the government shouldn't raise taxes

Tackling our deficit with new levies would be economically and politically suicidal, says Max King.
12 Oct 2020

Most Popular

The Bank of England should create a "Bitpound" digital currency and take the world by storm
Bitcoin

The Bank of England should create a "Bitpound" digital currency and take the world by storm

The Bank of England could win the race to create a respectable digital currency if it moves quickly, says Matthew Lynn.
18 Oct 2020
What would negative interest rates mean for your money?
UK Economy

What would negative interest rates mean for your money?

There has been much talk of the Bank of England introducing negative interest rates. John Stepek explains why they might do that, and what it would me…
15 Oct 2020
Last chance to secure a Bounce Back loan for your small business
Small business

Last chance to secure a Bounce Back loan for your small business

The government’s Bounce Back loan scheme will only run for another six weeks. Act now if you need to take advantage of it.
16 Oct 2020