Priced Out is a UK campaign group calling for more affordable housing in the UK.
Housing is probably one of the most talked about economic issues around the world. It's such a complicated one because there's so many different parties and interests involved – from people who just want a roof over their head, to investors looking to make money by buying up properties, to governments trying to sort the best way to oversee building new houses at the pace that people need them.
Countless campaign groups around the world exist to try and make sure people's right to shelter isn't denied as a result of bad planning or predatory landlords. We spoke to one of them – UK-based group Priced Out, who call for affordable housing across the UK for everyone. They launch petitions, put pressure on the government, and provide a platform for people's stories of housing.
So what would they do, if they really had the power, to fix the housing crisis in five simple steps? We asked them – here's what they said:
Sort out property taxes
The rules behind buying and selling houses put buyers at a disadvantage, Says Reuben, Communications Officer at Priced Out. One issue is what's called 'stamp duty', a tax you pay when you buy a house. He thinks it should be abolished for people buying a house as their home, rather than just as an investment. That would help first time buyers onto the housing ladder, rather than holding more people back by asking for extra funds beyond the price of the house. He also thinks sellers should pay a tax, called 'capital gains' tax (because it's money you're gaining from owning something valuable), on the money they earn from selling, to make things fairer.
Give private renters more rights
Landlords can evict tenants for any reason – or no reason at all – sometimes after just a few months of tenancy. This is a fast growing cause of homelessness in England, and makes it impossible for families to plan for their future, says Reuben. “Abolishing no-fault evictions would be an easy step to take to making renting more secure.”
Let local authorities build more houses
Local councils are poor. And at the moment, the government isn’t letting them borrow more money. But, says Reuben, allowing them to borrow more to invest in housing would help people out, and could bring in revenue for the council.
Review the Green Belt
At the moment, a lot of the green area surrounding cities is protected by the UK government. It's called the 'Green Belt'. While Reuben agrees that “areas of outstanding beauty should remain so,” he says a lot of what's classed as 'Green Belt' land is actually “neither beautiful nor biodiverse – much is not even green”. Restrictions on building on greenbelt land around cities is “choking their growth”, he says. “There are 110,000 hectares of Green Belt land inside the M25. Building on a carefully selected 5% could supply 200,000 new homes.”
Relax planning laws
Planning laws mean that local people can have a say on what is built near them, and local support will always be important to seeing new homes built, says Reuben. “Too often the voices of a few existing homeowners, when locally organised, halt developments at the expense of those who do not already own their own homes and do not already live in a desirable location.” Landowners should be able develop on their land, so long as they follow national and local building regulations and policies.
… most of us live in a home of friends, family, or with a partner. Our homes are like mini-economies, with their own systems of dividing up work, providing resources, and exchanging skill-sets. Not only do these affect our ideas of who does what on a wider scale, our homes themselves and where they’re located have an effect on the economy around us, and the economy we experience.