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Housing needs cross-party co-operation

by
23 November 2012

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From the Revd Kenneth Padley
Sir, - I share the concerns of Alison Gelder (Comment, 26 October) about the inexorable rise of mortgages and rents and the need to challenge societal discourse about benefits and property wealth. My economic instinct, however, is that her proposals of London weighting on housing benefit and a return to rent regulation would only add two inefficiencies into a market whose problem stems from a third inefficiency, namely, restrictions on construction.

This crisis is caused by the supply and demand for UK housing and has not been resolved because the long-term solutions all have big political costs. From a Christian perspective, there are also competing moral priorities. The demand side could be dampened by reducing net population growth, which might involve (a) disincentivising large families - which asks awkward questions about individuals' freedom to choose; (b) reducing net migration - always a hot potato; and (c) incentivising larger households -for example, through restoring the Married Person's Tax Allowance.

The alternative is to address the supply side of the housing market, but this could only be achieved at the expense of (d) the green belt and the power of local communities to resist development that is in the greater national interest.

All four suggestions are unpalatable; but I feel that there is a greater injustice in doing nothing. My personal preference would be to focus on (c) and (d).

The differences that churches can make are small and local. The change that is needed is cross-party cooperation for the good of the whole country.

KENNETH PADLEY
The Vicarage
St Michael's Street
St Albans AL3 4SL

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