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Thursday 19 July 2007 Letters
Crazy house prices
Who's to blame?

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Letters responding to: Who’s to blame for crazy house prices? by James Heartfield

Why does James Heartfield bend over backwards to defend buy-to-let landlords - a group that exemplifies one of the ugliest and most obviously exploitative forms of capitalism in Britain today? Quite simply, these people have used their access to capital to gain control of a substantial proportion of Britain’s housing stock, which they then rent - often at exorbitant prices - to those who lack the resources to buy homes of their own. In my part of the world (Cornwall) this situation is exacerbated by many local houses being bought as holiday homes - empty for most of the year - by wealthy individuals from outside the area. The result is that very large numbers of Cornish people have no prospect of ever being able to live in their own home. 

In itself, building more houses will do little to address this situation, as they will simply be bought up as buy-to-lets or second homes.

What’s needed is a steep tax on income from multiple home-ownership, forcing landlords and second home-owners to sell off their property portfolios and thus bringing down prices. I fear there is little prospect of Gordon Brown introducing such a policy, as he appears all too keen to follow in Blair’s footsteps by ingratiating himself with the super-rich. 

I wonder what Heartfield’s objection would be, though. Is his passion for building in rural areas driven by a deep aversion to the very idea of the countryside, seeing nature as something to be mastered and mercilessly subdued by the heroic vanguard of the urban proletariat - or, in its absence, Barratt Homes?

Tom Scott, UK

 

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