Plotlands: A shock for the housing market | Brussels Blog

Plotlands: A shock for the housing market

posted by on 24th Jan 2016

Stop Press February 2018: The free marketers at the Adam
Smith Institute are supporting an interesting idea on housing.

YIMBY: How To End The Housing Crisis, Boost The Economy And Win More Votes

Now read my suggestion …

#PlotlandsAgain #TheHousingRacket

Give them land, lots of land

The housing market needs a shock – a big one. A possibility is this: Layout a million or more house-sized plots of land with minimal infrastructure and sell them off to individual buyers, with a limit of one per person. This gives the owners a chance to develop their plots individually, even build their own should they wish.

Tiny-house-005” by Ourtinycabinproject – Own work.Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons

Something like this scheme happened with the out-of-town leisure gardens in the first half of the 20th Century. A typical use was as weekend retreats from the town. I grew up in a house in Strood, Kent, which was built on one of these garden plots. Next door had been owned by publicans, who built tennis courts and a summer house for their out-of-town recreation, the house coming later. Our house was the last to be built on the row of recreation garden plots. It was built in the late 1940s by my father with some help from family.

There are other examples of plots where individuals have built their own, in Walter Segal Way, Lewisham for example

Local council tenants were given the opportunity of constructing and ultimately owning their own homes, which were built at a low cost on terrain unsuitable for conventional building. The thirteen houses on Walter’s Way, built from 1977 onwards, form part of the earliest low-cost housing self-build project in the country.

The project was the brain-child of enlightened Lewisham Labour councillors, led by the councillor and architectural writer Nicholas Taylor, author of the influential (1976), and the architect Walter Segal.

Build-your-own on this scale is something most people will avoid but there is the possibility of self-constructed prefabricated buildings, (even one from IKEA) but it may be that new owners would want to put very cheap accommodation on their plot while they save for something grander. They might want to do what the couple with a teenage son did in the US? After losing well-paid jobs, they downsized from a 250 square metre house they could no longer afford to a 32 square metre shotgun shack with their son happily living in the roof space. According to the Daily Mail:

“Their house cost them less than $20,000 [£14,000] to make their home and they only pay $145 rent for the lot on which their shack and workshop stands.”

Readers of the Tiny House Blog must dream of such opportunity – a plot with enough space for a few trees to surround their tiny home.

Shrinking countryside?

A common objection to building new settlements is that there will be no countryside left because we are short of land. This is a convenient nonsense.

The London Region may be built up, having a density of 51.3 people per hectare. Some administrative wards in London are much more densely populated, with more than 200 people per hectare. However, the density of people in the South East Region, which excludes London, has a density of 4.6 people per hectare, ten times less dense than London. And of course, Surrey has more land devoted to GOLF COURSES than it does family homes.

Much of England is sparsely populated. Wales and Scotland are even emptier. There is plenty of open countryside left.

A plot for £1,000? A home for under £20,000.

The individual plots should be sold at or near agricultural prices. Currently that is about £20,000 per hectare. With 40 plots sized 10m x 20m on a hectare – leaving 20% of the area for simple tracks, the cost would be £500 per plot, allow £500 per dwelling for laying 10m of simple tracks for access, gives a floor price of £1000 per plot.

As a family starter add a £14,000 shotgun shack as described in the Daily Mail and there is basic accommodation for well under £20,000. That’s roughly a tenth of the price of the average house in the UK.

Planning permission

Typically granting planning permission for housing increases on agricultural land in creases it’s value by a hundred times or more. In York, where I live, planning permission has been adding £50,000 or more to a building plot. In the example above that would change the value of the land from £20,000 to £2,000,000 per hectare. This increase is captured by land owners and developers.

A prerequisite for plots to provide cheap housing is the grant of planning permission, to the individual owner. This could be done by a planning authority acquiring land at or near agricultural prices and then selling the plots with outline planning permission without extra charge.

Other possibilities (and certain problems) will be discussed in future posts. But for now….

Give them land, lots of land and the sunny skies above…

(after Robert Fletcher and Cole Porter)

Should that be “Give them land with lots of planning permission?”


Plotland links:

My plotland story By Ian Mott

Plotlands by Spatial Agency

History & Policy: The hidden history of housing by Colin Ward

Dunton Plotlands by Peter Jackson

The Dabbler: Plotlands

The Plotlands experience by William Mann

Other links:

Guardian, December 2015 Revealed: housebuilders sitting on 600,000 plots of land.

Some comments on prefabs and less conventional housing in Prejudices and housing: Prefabs.

Our housing market has screwed the young describes some dangers of cheap housing (e.g. crashing the banks).

This House Costs Just $20,000—But It’s Nicer Than Yours  “Rural Studio’s $20K House has such innovative design that it’s changing the entire housing system—from mortgages to zoning laws.”


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