However, fools such as Andrew Rawnsley and George Monbiot who still believe it's the business of the State to regulate how many bedrooms each of us has are still spawning the fatuous rubbish in our newspaper columns. Rawnsley in today's Observer calls for more housebuilding to get the young onto the property ladder, and offers the following asinine comment;
In just one year, 1953, Harold Macmillan presided over the construction of 300,000 new homes. He understood that a property-owning democracy could not be realised unless there were enough properties.And there was me thinking he was just urgently replacing the housing stock destroyed by German bombing.
Monbiot honestly can't understand why, between 2003 and 2008, there was a 45% increase in the number of under-occupied houses; 37% of dwellings, nearly all owner-occupied, are now officially classed as under-occupied. Monbiot agonises;
Why is this happening? I've spent the past few days wading through official figures to try to find out. None of the most obvious explanations appear to fit.Well George, try this. Over this period the government, planners and housebuilders delivered dense developments with large numbers of studios and one-bedroom flats because that's what the demographics suggested the rationing-system should produce. Then they insisted that a third of them be occupied by bad neighbours - as social housing. Young homebuyers aren't stupid. They realised that such properties were a poor investment, losing value immediately on purchase, and hard to resell when the lifts were full of social housing piss and the stairwells full of social housing crack-foil. So they shunned them. They were bought instead by first-time buy-to-letters cashing in on high rents and easy Housing Benefit. Many of these developments therefore became instant slums, and discouraged even more young buyers from investing in them. What they bought instead were two and three bedroom homes, many older, away from social housing, and that were decent investments. In many areas the price of an older two-bed property was equivalent to that of a new studio - a no-brainer, one would have thought. The surge in under-occupancy, in other words, was a direct result of attempts to distort the housing market through planning controls and land rationing and of social engineering experiments.
To 'correct' this, Monbiot wants more social engineering in the form of taxing those with empty bedrooms and Rawnsley simply imagines we're still not building enough studios and one-bedroom flats. Silly targets such as those adopted by Boris that are based on the number of dwellings rather than the number of bedrooms also encourage the distortion of the market and the creation of new ghettoes. It's bedrooms that count.