With the house prices 'going through the roof', politicians and journalists are jumping up to 'identify the problems' and offer their solutions to the 'housing crisis'.
Some blame lack of government (taxpayers') investment in 'affordable housing', others blame 'capitalism', and still others blame the immigrants. They are all pandering to prejudices and emotions and seek to justify unlimited powers for the politicians.
Few bother to look at the problem from prime principles and to ask questions. So, again, we are left with the task of digging out the truth from under the heaps of myths and ideologies.
There is an assumption in Britain today, that the moment a youngster leaves home to start his independent life, he has to buy a house of his own.
It also happens to be the case, that youngsters leaving home seldom start their independent lives earning big money, nor are they quite ready to settle down in a particular place.
So, why is it so important to buy a house of one's own the moment one starts one's adult life?
Can't one just rent a room, in a cheap area, and then buy a house, if and when one has sufficient income and the need to own a house is dictated by the circumstances of one's life? In some countries people on low, medium and even high incomes live in rented flats and houses throughout all of their lives, and only some decide to take upon themselves the burden of property ownership.
Why such urge to own a house at all times and at any cost?
To understand the reasons for this phenomenon, we would have to go back almost a century to the times of the First World War, because this is when the Rent Acts came into being. And these Rent Acts played an important part not only in shaping the British "housing landscape", but in turning the British System of Administration of Justice from an instrument of justice and protection of the rights of the individual into an instrument of enforcement of Socialist policies of the political governments of the 20th century.
Originally, the Rent Acts were introduced as war-time emergency legislation, limiting rent rises and giving temporary security of tenure, in the abnormal conditions caused by the war.
The Rent Acts were, however, not repealed after the state of emergency was over, but were ingested into the cesspit of twentieth century politics.
The twentieth century Labour Party Socialists saw private property as a social evil. Their aim was to put all private property into 'social ownership', and put themselves in control of the distribution of the resulting 'national cake'. They saw landlords, i.e. people who let their houses or rooms in their houses to others, not as parties to a contract, but as a 'class', which should eventually be 'expropriated', but could be tolerated temporarily until the Socialist Dream is achieved.
So, the law of contract, which was 'politically inconvenient' was perverted by introducing the concept of 'quasi-contract', which was a relationship imposed upon the parties by the government against the will of at least of one of the parties.
The word "quasi" means "seemingly", or "not quite". Because contract by its nature means a voluntary agreement, and in law a contract made under any form of compulsion is invalid, a "quasi-contract" is a contradiction in terms. But, while being nonsense, "quasi-contracts", that is contracts imposed by government, were "politically convenient" and "socially acceptable", and this is why they exist.
The essence of the 'quasi-contract' imposed by the Rent Acts, was that the government set the rent to a level which was convenient to them, and the landlord was obliged to rent his property at such government imposed rent practically forever.
So, in reality the relationship imposed by the Rent Acts was not 'quasi-contract', but 'quasi-expropriation'. The 'landlord' retained a formal title to his property and was responsible for it's maintenance and repairs, but the beneficial use of his property was taken over by the Socialist government, who used his property to provide subsidised 'social housing'.
Once a property became subject to such 'protected tenancy', it's value became that of an investement yealding whatever rent was established by the government. This in practice meant that, if the owner of such property wanted to sell it, he could do it, but the price he would get could be 10 to 20 times less than he would have got, if the property were sold with vacant possession.
It was obvious that this was a crime against private property committed by the British government. But the landlords were a minority, and had little 'clout' in the organised mob-rule of the Electoral Democracy. Yes, the rule of the justice-based Common Law, has been replaced with the rule of the Electoral Clout - Political Convenience and Social Acceptability.
Being unable to regain control of their property by legal means, some landlords were resorting to violence, with the result of the Socialists using such cases to vilify landlords as a 'class' still further, and to impose still further restrictions on their property rights.
Thus the Rent Acts were extended from unfurnished properties to furnished ones. And, by the last quarter of the 20th century, the only possible way of renting rooms without loosing control of one's property was 'bed-and-breakfast', because bed-and-breakfast establishments were considered as guest houses, and were exempt from the operation of the Rent Acts.
The Conservatives, while calling themselve champions of freedom, could never stand up to the Rent Acts and abolish them as a crime against property.
With the concept of 'private property' having been vilified and the word 'home' having been given an emotive meaning by political demagogues and the media, the Conservatives started promoting the ideas of encouraging 'home ownership' and 'owner occupation' by introducing various tax incentives for 'owner occupiers'. This was a political use of taxation, and another abuse of government powers. This was also driving people towards home ownership.
In parallel with their 'quasi-expropriation' policies against private landlords the Labour Party Socialists were expanding their social housing. That is houses built at the public expense.
This still further encouraged the belief, that housing is a right, to be provided by the government, or private landlords, free.
The result of this activity are those crime-ridden 'Damilola' council estates, that from time to time get into the media limelight.
No, it is not the architecture, that makes these council estates areas of vice and depravity. The same houses built for private occupation can be sold as "desirable residences". It is not the shape of the houses that leads people to alcohol and drugs abuse, it is the attitude to life that people develop when they are deprived of the sense of control and responsibility over their own lives. Once people abandon responsibility for their own lives, their life looses meaning, and they seek refuge in alcohol, drugs, and promiscuous sex. While lack of respect for the property of others, which is implicit in the Socialist ideology, encourages vandalism, muggings and theft - 'redistribution of wealth'.
As social housing, constant wage increases as a result of strikes, and spiraling benefits could only be maintained by spiraling taxes and consequent spiraling prices, inflation had become a permanent feature of the 'mixed economy' of the 20th century.
This inflation was another incentive towards property ownership. Money was loosing its value, while prices of houses kept increasing.
So this is why today there is such a drive for house ownership.
Now let us look at the 'causes' of housing shortage as identified by the political establishment: lack of investment in 'affordable housing', 'capitalism', and 'the immigrants':
Building and property development are private legitimate activities, and the government has no right to intervene with these activities. Builders build houses for sale to make a profit and to make a profit they need either to sell or to let. And they cannot sell or let their houses unless there are people who can afford to buy their houses. This is the only meaning of the word 'affordable' in that context.
But this is not what the politicals mean by that word. They mean building houses that 'everybody' can afford. This statement is a meaningless political slogan, because people's financial positions vary, and there are people who cannot afford to buy a £50 tent, let alone a piece of ground sufficient for pitching it. So what they really mean by 'affordable housing' is 'subsidised housing'. No not subsidised by the caring-sharing politicians out of their own private funds, the generous souls that they are, but subsidised out of taxes. Back to the crime-ridden council estates, high taxation, inflation, unemployment?
Capitalism used to be blamed for all the ills under the sun. But it never existed. What the socialists meant by this word, was the absence of socialism, or just freedom of private individuals to live their own lives without being controlled by the socialists.Today blaming capitalism is not as fashionable as it used to be, but old habits die hard. So for those, who are still addicted to socialism, and can't kick the habit, I can only say that the worst housing in Europe is in Russia, and some other countries of Eastern Europe. And the longer a country remained under Communist rule, the worse housing conditions it has inherited.
Immigrants are a motley batch, they are not all the same. Some are 'filty-rich', and could buy an odd estate from the National Trust, that no aboriginal Brit can even dream about, others are 'dirt-poor', and, were it not for rent controls and subsidised housing, would have been happy to rent a shared bed, not a house. Like those immigrant taxi drivers in Dubai, who work shifts and rent a shared bed, which they use in shifts. This allows them to save more money faster and buy a house of their own and set up a business once they return to their native Indian Sub-Continent. Had they been denied such opportunity, they would have been doomed to poverty.
So what is the solution for the British housing shortage?
The above two measures will lead to liberation of the housing market and allow it to cater for the various needs of private individuals in the free society, which no government can ever foresee or cater for.