Listening as a Synonym for Shutting You Up

Ian Martin in the Guardian

the “listening”. Which genius of political grammar – Coulson? Hilton? Someone else with a name like a motorway services stop? – hit on the brilliant idea of “listening” as a synonym for “shutting you up”?

The government floats a policy. It’s greeted with outrage and uproar. The government announces it will pause, reflect, listen. While it waits for better public opinion polls. While it marshals experts who are on its side, who might make a fortune from privatisation and who may in due course have non-executive directorships to offer.

The Advantages of Taxing Land

There has been increasing discussion of Land Value Taxation in recent months with prominent supporters, including Vince Cable. This post neatly sums up the advantages.

First the politics. A land value tax would be progressive because the richer people are, the more likely they are to own expensive land. It might even be more progressive than income tax because land wealth is even more concentrated in the hands of the few, argues David Cooper:

LVT is indeed fairer than income tax because property wealth is far more concentrated than income. The best-paid 1% get about 8% of the national income. The wealthiest 1% own 23% of the national wealth. It is in property where greatest inequalities lie, not income.

It would, therefore, be a more effective way of getting extracting extra tax from the rich than simply raising income tax.

Furthermore, LVT might help to even up the wealth gap between the South East and the rest of the country. Poorer regions where land is cheaper would become internal tax havens and would therefore be more likely to attract new businesses.

Then there’s the economics. LVT would, say its advocates, discourage people from leaving land unused. Because the tax is on the value of the land regardless of what is standing on it, you would pay the same for a plot of land with a derelict warehouse on it as you would for the same size plot next door with a mansion on it. This would give people an extra incentive to develop land. LVT might also act as a brake on house prices as, in general, higher priced houses would attract more tax. Given the damage that property bubbles have inflicted on the world’s economy recently, that can’t be a bad thing.

Shifting tax from wages and profits to land could also, say LVT’s supporters, encourage people to invest in business rather than property. Income and corporation taxes are taxes on economic activity. Increasing the taxes on land would give people less of an incentive to sit on their arses watching their property value rise and more of an incentive to put their money into job creating businesses.

Plan to abolish 1/3 of Italy’s Local Planning Authorities Scrapped #localism

Italys Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti as part of the Austerity Package agreed with the European Central Bank had proposed radical savings through reducing the number of provinces, abolishing all of those under 300,000 (half of all provinces) forcing mergers with neighbours, and all communes under 1,000.

Provinces dont have a huge range of powers, they are local police and fire districts (though local police in Italy are a bit of a joke, the National Police have the powers and money), but their main powers are as local planning and zoning authorities and responsibility for road maintenance.

As planning authorities most were of about the right size, broadly corresponding to travel to work areas, and the reforms would have meant some provinces being split between several city provinces, such as Siena and Grossetto, being forced to merge, despite Grossetto fighting a battle to free itself only 750 years ago.

With Italian allegiances being older and stronger to city, region and commune that to State this understandably produced an outcry. Some communes even proposed to declare themselves independent principalities. One in the Alps even asked for 850 refugees from Lampedusa to save itself. The island of Capraia, off Genoa, has threatened to secede from Italy and apply to become part of Corsica rather than lose its council.

The word is that Tremonis austerity measures have proved so unpopular he is to go shortly, these local government plans have been scrapped, with Berlesconi seeking to pin the blame for the economic crisis on him.

Colin Wiles – How I Hate the #NPPF NT ‘Barbour Brigade’

Colin Wiles paints the arguments over the NPPF is the cartoon form ministers would like it painted

I’ve always disliked the National Trust. I hate their twee, tacky giftshops and their bossy staff and the way they prissify and ossify our once-shaggy landed estates. But now my dislike has an additional justification – for the Trust’s campaign against planning reforms is an utter disgrace. Their website calls for the public’s support with these words: “Want to stand up for the everyday places you love? Support us in our opposition of Government’s proposed planning reform by signing our petition.” The CPRE is no better, saying that, “the protection of precious countryside is going to be seriously weakened.”

This is hysterical tosh.

Reading this stuff would make you believe two falsehoods. One, that all of the land outside our towns and cities is precious and worth preserving at all costs, and two, that we live in a grossly overcrowded country, where the best parts of the countryside are about to be concreted over.

But Colin the NPPF makes no distinction between the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ countryside in 70% of teh countryside not covered by national designations. That is the main point of concern as the CPRE and the NT have repeatedly said.

It does illustrate though how the cmapiagn against the NPPF must be much wider than a ‘Barbour’ campaign – if it becomes this and does not suggest positive solutions for housing – including family affordable housing with gardens – it is lost.

Chris Birch on the #NPPF blame game

Chris Birch from his blog in Inside Housing

The credit crunch left many housebuilders in serious trouble, with homes that would not sell and landbanks that became a liability because land values had to be written down in their accounts. They responded by reducing their landbanks, disposing of unwanted land and selectively buying new sites, and by cutting production to concentrate on fewer, larger, more profitable homes.

So it’s not a big surprise that the number of planning applications is down. The major builders have enough land to last six years at current production levels and it would be stupid to spend more money on planning when permissions only last for three.

They have been forced to cut production to cope with lower demand caused by the shortage of mortgage finance since the credit crunch and by the way that record low interest rates have propped up house prices.

Do something about that and you might help the millions of young people priced out of home ownership and trapped paying higher and higher rents.

The NPPF may help in the longer term by making it easier to build in the South East – hence the housebuilders’ interest.

In the short to medium term though, it’s no use blaming the planners for the miserable output of new homes. It’s not much use blaming housebuilders either for cutting production to ensure their survival.

His analysis is essentially correct, although the pipeline is equivalent to 2 years supply at the housebuilding levels we need, and actually less as as always housebuilders buy and option sites they speculatively asume will gain planning consent and not all housebuilders will gain permission for sites around the same settlement. In some plum places there will be too many sites and in others too few.

Daily Mail Predicts House Price Crash!

Choked on my cornflakes over this one, if it was the Daily Express i’d have had an anurism.

Mitchell B Fernstien Chief Executive of the Glacier Fund

Can you name any occasion in history when a developed country simultaneously faces savage government cuts, swingeing rates of tax, high inflation, rising unemployment, depressed growth abroad, rising interest rates, huge levels of debt, and doesn’t have a housing crisis?
In the UK housing slump of the early 1990s, the world situation wasn’t nearly so bleak as it is now, yet prices (in real terms) still fell by well over a third from peak to trough.

Of course if we have a round of distressed sales this could tun out to be true as this will overwhelm the current tight supply situation.

Mothers-in-Law and House Prices

In China the joke is that it’s the mother-in-law who drives up housing prices in first-tier cities by demanding that the couple must have a home of their own before she consents to her daughter’s marriage.

However a recent ruling by the Supreme People Court is fuelling the bubble.

Under the previous marriage law, a house purchased before marriage is jointly owned by the husband and wife, regardless of who paid for the property. Consequently, many young Chinese women wanted a husband who owned a house without a mortgage. With a recent ruling a spouse has no share of ownership of property bought in mortgage by the other spouse before marriage, causing many young Chinese to consider buying property before marriage and talking out a mortgage to do so.

Public opinion is sharply divided about the change, with some applauding that it will encourage couples to focus more on love itself than sharing the spouse’s assets, while many others worry that it is extremely unfair to women. Under the new interpretation, a woman’s traditional work in the home would not entitle her to any compensation in property in the event of divorce

Meanwhile in an attempt to cool house prices controls on second home ownership were introduced in more than 20 second and third tier cities. Hot money from surrounding cities which had already imposed purchase limits was flowing to these cities.