Danny Dorling, All That Is Solid: The Great Housing Disaster (London: Allen Lane, 2014), 386 + xiv pp.
This is the third of three posts.
So what can be done?
First, we must recognise that our well-being is tied up with those poorer than us . Second, ‘What is needed is a cultural change away from greed’ . Third, we need to see property primarily as a home, and not as a (speculative) investment .
In short, ‘We need to remember that housing is a special kind of good – a social good – which brings with it wider benefits. In this it is like education and health. It is better for all of us if others are also well housed, well educated, and healthy’ .
To this end Dorling makes ten proposals:
1. Extend the current council tax bands up to band “Z” with a view to transforming the tax into a fairer national land and property tax.2. Enhance the existing “right-to-stay” into a “right-to-sell”, giving mortgagors the right to become tenants rather than face eviction.3. Second homes, holiday homes and empty commercial property need to be included in a fairer property tax system to discourage waste.4. Spare bedrooms should not be taxed. Every family should be able to live in a home with a spare room for visitors. We already have enough rooms. Every single adult who wants their own space should have it.5. An enhanced home-building programme will be needed if more people come into the UK than leave, as has been the case in recent years.6. Benefits are now so low that they must soon rise faster than wages, which must rise faster than salaries – all of which must rise faster than home prices. Rents need to stay still, if not fall. All these are out of balance.7. Greater income and wealth equality would be improved by the reintroduction of rent controls, which would also reduce housing benefit bills massively. The already calculated Local Housing Allowances could be used to set the maximum fair rent in an area.8. Squatting and all other acts that are done purely to seek shelter and not to steal items for a profit should again be a civil, not a criminal, offence. Squatting is a symptom of a problem, not the problem.9. Illegal actions by landlords and bankers that deprive people of their home and shelter should become criminal, rather than civil, offences.10. We have to recognize that housing is central to environmental sustainability. When we build, we need to build for the very long term [314-315].
All That is Solid is incredibly stimulating. Yes, Dorling sits unapologetically on the left, but favours evolution over revolution. (The System can be slowly redeemed!) However, he also has a tendency to tar all landlords with the same brush. Here, I would urge some caution, since the landlord whom my wife and I left for social housing exhibited much of the (other-centred) virtue that Dorling so desperately seeks across the board.
In the next series of posts, we turn to Felix Martin’s book Money.