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More housing would help recovery from recession

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 07, 2012

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It would be good to read the case for building more homes more often in your pages; after all your newspaper, like so many businesses, depends upon more customers to buy it (and more businesses to advertise in it) in order to prosper. Without more homes to live in, more families and young people will leave our region and our population will inevitably start to decline as it gets older. This will benefit nobody.

As well as meeting a basic human need, the economic case for house building is threefold.

First, the very act of construction and house building is labour intensive and creates employment. Between the two World Wars four million homes were built in the UK, not just transforming the quality of life for so many people, but adding to economic recovery from the great depression. From 1932 to 1937 this was especially strong ( a scale of recovery George Osborne could now only dream of) and in the South of England in particular this was fuelled by a house building boom.

Secondly, building more homes in prosperous areas enables people to move, find work and make their contribution to economic activity. The availability of housing in more appealing areas also then enables them to move in later life and bring their share of prosperity with them. My Cornish grandmother, like so many other young people at that time, left Cornwall with most of her family and moved to London in the early years of the last century to find work. She met my grandfather, who had also started life in very modest circumstances and within a few years they had become successful shopkeepers, acquiring shops as new estates of houses were built in the "Metro Land" of North London. They were able to retire, in some style, to a recently built house by Churston Golf Course, Tor Bay, before my grandfather was fifty. It is hard to imagine this mobility, geographic, social or economic, now.

Thirdly, an under-supply of housing inevitably pushes up the cost, leaving far less to spend on everything else, which then has the same depressing effect on economic activity as high taxation. Indeed, it is worse because the greatest impact is on younger working people, who find it impossible to get on the housing ladder and are locked into a life of working long hours to pay high rents. These are the very people upon whom all our future wellbeing depends and yet they are getting the worst deal.

Older people who bought houses years ago, or those not working, but living in social/subsidised rented housing are largely immune from all this; indeed, some of the former group may profit from it as homes bought for a few thousands thirty or forty years ago are now worth a fortune in the far South West's property "hot spots".

Perhaps, Mr Editor, all those who write in protest about plans to build more houses and are fortunate to own one, should end their letters telling us when they bought their first home and how much they paid?

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