The Problem with Housing and Infrastructure is an Aging Population – Not New People Moving In

John Harris Guardian

one objection came up time and again: how “a whole new town” would cause the wider public realm to buckle under the strain. o quote one eloquent statement of opposition, “Services and infrastructure are already overstretched. Who will fund what is needed? 

Compare the situation to even 15 years ago when S106 contributions to matters such as school places and GP facilities were rare, now they are almost universal. There have been several attempts to systematise the process, such as CIL, but it is acknowledged they cant pay for the big ticket items, like major transport infrastructure. However recessions and poorer parts of the country in planners eyes the problem is solved. The contributions are enough to mitigate health and education impacts. Indeed as many planners will tell you around 2/3rds of new home occupants in most areas are existing residents in the housing market areas, the net new impact will be minimal.

Yet why don’t many local campaigners see it that way? The problem is they see local schools being closed, the number of schools has declined by around 7,000 since 2010, with closure of many rural schools. GPs feel overloaded, many retire, and the CCTs find it hard to attract new doctors, or find new premises, especially in rural areas, and single doctor practices are inefficient. There is a common theme here. Primary care pressure is rising because of an aging population, and birth rates are falling. Far more work per patient on rolls. The demographic for school age children is shrinking in rural areas, making schools less viable. The available workforce for teachers and GPS is shrinking as the dependency ratio rises, areas just outside London cant compete with London weighting.

The logic here is that housing for young people needs to increase in such areas not slow down, otherwise public services could simply collapse, or like Japan with its anti-immigration stance there will be a mad rush to robotise services with most people dead before the technology catches up to be of any use.

An aging population in a broadly fixed housing and population stock causes a financial vicious circle of doom for local public services as the cost of services rises and the number of local taxpayers to fund them declines. Then those who rely of care for the elderly but don’t need for an expansion of the housing stock vote against its expansion, leading to the revenue cost of services spiralling whatever the funding of capital.

The solution, adding to the standard method an additional allowence for areas with a high dependency ratio, restricted to small units for elederly residents only. This would lead to a much more efficient re-allocation of the existing housing stock as those over-occupying houses (two or more bedrooms free) which is nearly half the over 65s. Capital receipts on profits from sale of large houses should no longer be exempt from CGT, with the receipts ringfenced to expansion and training of additional public service workers in those areas.

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