UK Housing Crisis Can Be Solved by Rich Land Owners

January 6, 2016 by CRL Management

The richest landowners in England are being asked to help alleviate the national housing crisis by making land available for building new homes.

According to a recent recommendation from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), those who own 5,000 of England’s largest country estate are in a position to create economic growth, employment, and housing in areas of the country where the population is declining. RICS is lobbying the government to launch more schemes to support building new homes on unused land.

At present there is a shortfall of 76% in rural housing, which is compelling people to leave country communities and driving up house prices to such an extent that homes are unaffordable.

The call went out as recent figures revealed that in December, house prices in the UK grew at their most rapid rate in eight months. This happened amid warnings that a deficit of new homes could drive price growth even higher.

Data compiled by Nationwide revealed that prices went up by an average of 0.8% in December, in increase from the 0.1% growth experienced in November.

Sir Peter Erskine, who has constructed 22 affordable properties on his family estate in the East of Fife, Scotland, commented that large estates represent a solution to dwindling population levels in rural communities.

The area near the Cambo estate lost a post office and grocery shop in recent times, and the local school is facing a dearth of pupils.

Sir Peter said that he cared about the well-being of the community, and as major stakeholders, landowners can do a lot of good.

150 staff are employed at the Cambo estate during the peak season, but he warned that if affordable housing is not available, the area’s slow decline can’t be halted.

Jeremy Blackburn, RICs’ head of policy, said that small quantities of affordable housing can make rural communities more viable. He added that the rural housing crisis could be solved if only 10 homes were built in each of the 1,600 small towns in rural England.

He pointed out that the issue was not so much about central government providing fiscal incentives to landowners to encourage building new homes, although it would be helpful. It was about encouraging landed estates and local authorities to work together to build homes, establishing affordable options for both young and old homeowners, especially tenanted farmers who will need somewhere to retire.

Sir Peter said that the TV programme Downton Abbey’s Christmas special showed that country estates were once the centre of social and economic activities in rural areas. He claimed that landowners across the country are willing to assist in bringing about positive social change, but high taxes and hostile political attitudes held them back.

Over the years, he said, there has been a hostile political atmosphere and a punitive tax system was in place until recently.

“We are now in an era where people will once again appreciate the value of these estates and what they can do for the community.”

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