Homes are essential like food and water – yet no government seems willing to take affordable housing seriously

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Wednesday 14 April 2021 18:50
What can house prices tell us about the economy?

Vince Cable writes as an experienced politician, former business secretary and with an understanding of economics. But I suspect he doesn’t question the right of the market to control house prices.

Alongside food and water, a place to live is one of the essentials for a safe and productive life, with energy another vital requirement. It is unthinkable that a government could allow shortages of food and water to threaten people’s lives and welfare, yet the availability of enough affordable housing has been a common theme for decades.

Part of the problem is that housing is regarded as an asset. Economists often trumpet rising house prices as an economic benefit. I have benefited twice from rising house prices but they involved my home and enabled me to buy a house that would also likely have risen in price. Because food and water can’t generally be stored as an asset (wine being an exception) it means that only housing, of the essentials, is subject to market forces in this way, leading to rising rents and the bizarre results that potential building land can be kept undeveloped waiting for the value to rise, and houses can be bought simply as an investment without even being used as a home.

This raises the issue of land prices as Cable has written. Can house prices be controlled, which would also of course involve controlling land prices? That’s a challenge I’d like to see a government taking seriously.

David Buckton


Greensill saga

I read with interest John Rentoul’s column about Keir Starmer’s mission to get to the bottom of the unedifying saga of David Cameron and Greensill. I am behind Labour in this matter as it does go to the bottom of how lobbying should be undertaken and how it can be manipulated for less than transparent and ethical ends.

This is indeed a chance for the opposition to nail their transparency modus operandi to the shaky government mast of blatant opportunism from a former prime minister who finally now admits he should have known better and gone through the proper channels. This habitually feeds into the public’s mindset that they are all guilty of cronyism.

In 2010, before he was elected to high office, Cameron spoke ethically with principals intact about the necessity to keep moral probity as your watchword in regard to lobbying and pursuing the most formal of channels. Pity he didn’t stick by his words. This does need to be investigated and Labour is right to pursue this robustly with determination to get to the bottom of this invidious affair.

Judith A Daniels

Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

‘No rules broken’

If I were a betting man, or woman, I’d be willing to put a few bob on the outcome of the government’s investigation into the Greensill affair. It will probably be found that no action need be taken against any ministers or officials, former or current, because “no rules were broken”.

But should it not be a requirement of those in high office that they do what is right, and are seen to be doing that? If they merely abide by inadequate rules they reveal themselves to be grubby little people feathering their own grubby little nests. And their successors in authority, if they fail to censure them, risk being tarred with the same brush.

Susan Alexander

Frampton Cotterell, Gloucestershire

Lockdown easing danger

Boris Johnson tells us that easing lockdown will inevitably create a rise in coronavirus deaths. He has, meanwhile, eased lockdown. Therefore I hold him personally responsible for the forthcoming rise in coronavirus deaths.

But a quick ruffle of that unkempt hair and a rueful smile, while sporting an engagingly ill-fitting suit, should sort it. That is the despicable level of our politics. Any half-decent Tory and all other MPs who do not rage against this most unprincipled of governments are complicit.

Beryl Wall


Slowly does it

In February last year I finally retired at the age of 72, bought a new car and tentatively planned to visit friends and family in various parts of the British Isles and around the world. I got as far as Slough before the restrictions came into force.

My partner and I absolutely followed the sound advice of isolating at home, only to shop when necessary, and washing/sanitising hands on returning home. We have both had our jabs and will venture out in the near future.

We were cocooned in a three-bedroom house with a small garden. From the outset I believed that we would have a “rocky ride” but, believe it or not, it has been enjoyable.

We have discussed events and feelings, laughed, and argued, but crucially have become closer as a result.

The dreadful consequences of the pandemic were always in the back of our minds but we stayed positive and we count ourselves lucky to have missed the trauma that so many people have experienced.

We both yearn to be free to roam as we did before this crisis but realise that it will be a long haul before we are free of Covid-19. Bored we are not, just a little fatigued by monotony. Most of all we miss interaction with people, friends and family.

Perhaps next year we can get back to a less surreal way of life. Perhaps we can get gossip firsthand, actually cheer at a sporting arena, cry, laugh and feel proud at leaving-dos, weddings and funerals, etc. It will soon come.

As in any story there is a start, a middle and now we need the crescendo, an end to the heartbreak that so many have experienced. For now let’s go slowly and not forego the gains we have achieved.

Keith Poole


Horse triumph

I heard about the wonderful achievement of a woman being the first to win a major horse race. Surely the clue is in the name “horse race” – it was a horse that won the race who just happened to have a female clinging on to its back.

Geoff Forward


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