A solution to the housing crisis that doesn’t cost councils a penny?

The housing market is in crisis with many first time buyers locked out of owning and, in many areas, being able to rent property at affordable levels. As a country, we also have a homeless problem with a shocking lack of care for the mentally ill and, our military veterans.chris matterport me

Various solutions have been tried over the years and charities have also played a vital role in alleviating some of the need. For years there has been much hand wringing and blame-gaming by politicians for who is at fault but, the problem stubbornly remains.

Owning a home of ones’ own is not a human right but, having a secure place to call home is.

I believe there is a solution that has been staring us as all in the face for many years and it does not require any additional spending.

Local government (councils) currently sit on, and annually invests in, billions of pounds worth of investments, predominantly in stocks and shares for their pension funds. This is almost always invested in major companies who have little to no local connections or interest in the well-being or growth of the area and people whose money they have invested in them. Neither is there any guarantee that these investments will provide any return and, may even lose money.

However, if local and national government were required to use a minimum of 50% of existing pension funds and new contributions to invest in their own local housing needs, this would have immediate, medium and long term benefits. This investment would be in the form of, but not limited to

  • Making means-tested local authority buyer property deposits available

  • Building new, and refurbishing existing vacant property stock, means-tested, short to medium term social housing

  • Building flats and help centres for the homeless to be leased to and run by homeless charities at nominal rates

Making means-tested local authority buyer property deposits available. This would operate by offering qualifying local residents secured loans for private property purchase to be used as deposits. Deposits would be up to ten percent of the purchase price and would be based over a ten-year period. The homeowners would make affordable capital repayments with no interest over the first 10 years (e.g. £20,000 loan = £83.33 per month for 10 years) guaranteeing local government a minimum return on their investments and a source of income.

Any remaining initial loan amount plus interest would be repaid in whole or in part on the sale of the property (most buyers move home 2 to 4 times in their lifetimes though this figure varies) or, become due after ten years. The interest rate would be calculated as a percentage rate of the median house price inflation over the term of the loan for the Council area as a whole as using ONS or HM Land Registry figures. Homeowners who did not need or want to move after the ten year period would have a commercial interest rate calculation made for the previous ten year period (set against Bank of England rates) which ould be payable as a lump sum or, spread over a further ten year period at a variable current rate of interest.

To protect the homeowners and facilitate the flow and turnover of housing stock, the maximum chargeable interest would be capped at a set amount of any house price inflation. To ensure council pension investments were assured of a return (unlike at present), the minimum interest payable would be at an agreed minimum percentage; (for example, this could be set at 1% below Bank of England Base rates over the period.

Building new, and refurbishing existing vacant property stock, means-tested, short to medium term social housing. Self-explanatory. Councils would again have funds available to invest in their local housing needs to bring back derelict and unused housing stock into use and, to build new housing stock for social rent.

Building flats and help centres for the homeless to be leased to and run by homeless charities at nominal rates. Not only is looking after this countrys’ homeless a moral imperative, there are also sound financial reasons to help people back into society and a secure home. By utilising existing pension funds and contributions to invest in these buildings, existing expenditure on policing and emergency accommodation can be utilised elsewhere or, saved.

If implemented, I believe the above innovations would build happier communities and good, better-maintained cities, towns and villages. The positive consequential advantages would be many. A happier society tends to be healthier, crime drops, jobs are created and wages increase.

From purely a cold investment point of view, the above paragraph outlines how I believe this will help ensure local property prices remain stable and grow, bringing in good returns for the pension funds who have invested in them. The greatest returns though are for our society.

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