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Why The 2015 Election Isn't About Housing (Sky News)

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In The Margins: Voters' Doubts Over Housing

By Joey Jones, Deputy Political Editor

Sky's Joey Jones is travelling the country looking at the issues that matter to voters in some of the marginal constituencies.

Here he focuses on concerns about housing in Thurrock, Essex, one of the 150 seats that could play a deciding role in May's General Election.

THURROCK

There is a widespread assumption that in a general election campaign the parties deal with the issues that matter to people.

The economy, the cost of living... in the aftermath of a financial crisis these are issues in the forefronts of people's minds.

Immigration has been thrust to the top of the agenda as UKIP's success has demonstrated their competitors' failure to grasp the mood of the British people on the issue; the NHS, education and so on - central to the fabric of people's lives.

However, some issues that you might expect to feature strongly will not.

They will feature, but not as central themes. I have been looking at one example - housing.

The picture I found in Thurrock in Essex is typical for the South East of England in particular (though it is not exclusive to this region).

There is concern about private rental costs and a lack of housing stock (in particular council housing).

Skyrocketing prices are a central preoccupation.

But the reality is that there is no real benefit for political parties in making housing central to the political battleground.

For one thing, it is all too difficult.

No government has made particularly good progress in doing what all agree needs to be done - building more homes.

Beyond that though, housing is not a key "dividing line" issue.

Politicians like talking about things where they can say: "Look at the other lot - they would do it this way but they are wrong. We would do it differently and we would all be better off."

When it comes to a problem as intractable as housing, it is not too much of a caricature to say that Westminster orthodoxy is: "Isn't it all difficult? We will do our best. We'll do better than the other lot (and better than last time we had a crack at it)."

Thurrock is a dogfight between three parties (UKIP are mounting a fierce challenge to Labour and the Conservatives).

It is a place where you need to scrap for every vote.

That means choosing your ground carefully, fighting on issues where you are confident of landing meaningful blows.

Not surprisingly, then, the people I spoke to in Thurrock had no confidence that politicians could help improve the housing situation (with one exception - a man who felt that UKIP's desire to reduce immigration could free up accommodation).

It is all very well that voters have no confidence politicians can sort out a single, admittedly important, issue.

The wider danger is that if MPs cannot deal with something that really does make a difference to people's lives, they will only find themselves confronted with further cynicism and disenchantment.

http://news.sky.com/story/1418371/in-the-margins-voters-doubts-over-housing

The easiest solution to the affordable housing crisis is of course to do nothing. Stop HTB and FLS and sit back...

Disappointing to see no mention here of the impact of loose credit. The comments mostly blame immigration.

At least Sky are actually raising this. Their current top story is an interview with the Greens who are highlighting their plans to build more council houses and end Right to Buy.

Edited by rantnrave

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What are the dividing-lines between Lib, Lab and Con? So far as I can tell, on every material issue they think the same way. The City, Europe, housing, immigration, the NHS etc.

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I hate to post this, but from my experience as part of a large group in a restaurant on Saturday night, I'm not surprised that housing isn't a key battleground. Of the people I spoke to, the vast majority honestly believe that we have a solid recovery underway, based on nothing more than the fact that their house now seems to be worth what they want it to be worth again, and that means that everything is just groovy.

These were all people with children or grandchildren in their 20s.

The future of this country is so ******ed.

Edited by Fully Detached

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The problem is that in any group of people, there are more winners than losers. As soon as a loser gets on the housing ladder, they have a pretty strong interest in maintaining the status quo. Roughly you have:

- People under 40 with no house, pissed off -> your target votes.

- People under 40 with a house, would be very pissed off if the world changes -> you lose these

- People over 40 with house wondering where their kids will live -> you lose these if you mess up the system

- People over 40 who don't care -> you lose these as soon as you start talking about a housing problem.

Until the first group is bigger than the combination of the other three, there is no political capital in talking about this.

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The problem is that in any group of people, there are more winners than losers.

I think you mean, there are a lot of people who think they are winners....people who think they are sitting on 100's of 1000's of unearned untaxed money, but who in the cold hard light of day will; struggle to sell their house and realise those perceived riches. That unearned untaxed money can disappear over-night.

It's all a big confidence trick. Vote for us, we'll make you rich, as you sit there in the cold cause you can't afford to put the hearing on...

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think you mean, there are a lot of people who think they are winners....people who think they are sitting on 100's of 1000's of unearned untaxed money, but who in the cold hard light of day will; struggle to sell their house and realise those perceived riches.

There are lots of people who not only are sitting on untold wealth, but are pretty confident that they could realise that wealth tomorrow. Lots of people cashing in London houses and buying somewhere cheaper + a few hundred K in the bank. All tax free, who can blame them. They are not going to vote for anyone promising to end the gravy train.

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There were Lots of people cashing in London houses last year and buying somewhere cheaper + a few hundred K in the bank All tax free, who can blame them.

It's totally unsustainable, a child could see that and it's certainly not tax free, that "free money" will mean someone is taxed into the ground to pay for it....they themselves + the rest of us.

At least we know where the QE money went...to the people in the know that sold up last year. Them that didn't and are now trying to sell will be bemoaning their bad luck for years to come.

In reality, we should all be protesting about this theft/fraud. The Q.E. gravy train is so biased towards central london ( where MPs have their second homes ) as to make it quite possible the least fair way ever found to handing out money. I prefer to look at is as the most corrupt/fraudulent way.

The police should really be looking into the activities of the MPs, their expenses scandal is nothing to their free unearned untaxed equity fraud scandal.

Edited by TheCountOfNowhere

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What it's saying is that we have a Governbankment with no line between Government and Banks. So whoever is elected will be doing what makes more profit for banks by increasing household debt and underwrites any of their potential losses, e.g. a continuation of Help to Buy Bail Banks

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I think you mean, there are a lot of people who think they are winners....people who think they are sitting on 100's of 1000's of unearned untaxed money, but who in the cold hard light of day will; struggle to sell their house and realise those perceived riches. That unearned untaxed money can disappear over-night.

It's all a big confidence trick. Vote for us, we'll make you rich, as you sit there in the cold cause you can't afford to put the hearing on...

True but lots of home owners think that they are better off because house prices have gone up and will certainly punish any poltician who makes them "poorer".

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It sounds like they chose the people they asked very carefully but they did apparently include (only) one contrary opinion.

Of course if all the parties have virtually indistinguishable policies and the parties and media emphasise and highlight other issues and try to suggest a main problem is unsurmountable then it won't take first place - especially of you choose the people you ask very carefully.

Then the UK economy is in such bad shape that there are of course other issues to compete with - and one of the fundamental reasons the other issues exist is due to the crazy house price/housing policies but for a lot of people that fundamental reason isn't clear.

It's part of the LibLabCon con.

Edited by billybong

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I thought the forecast was for coalition so unless they take Clegg's example last time best not to promise anything which they later have to go back on. Also like last time I expect some deal behind the scenes. Maybe the deals have already been done?

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Focussing solely on 'dividing line' issues is a key part of what is causing a gradual and continual erosion in support for the mainstream parties.

Rather than offering a vision for a better future, and presenting big ideas to tackle the big problems, they are just competing to appease an unrepresentative minority in marginal constituencies by exploiting division on narrow issues.

That's why we don't have leaders or parties that we can believe in.

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True but lots of home owners think that they are better off because house prices have gone up and will certainly punish any poltician who makes them "poorer".

Lots of home-owners have been carefully trained to think that they are better off because of house price increases.

Vested Interests control the media, which creates the public opinion that determines government policy to benefit the vested interests.

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http://news.sky.com/story/1418371/in-the-margins-voters-doubts-over-housing

The easiest solution to the affordable housing crisis is of course to do nothing. Stop HTB and FLS and sit back...

Disappointing to see no mention here of the impact of loose credit. The comments mostly blame immigration.

At least Sky are actually raising this. Their current top story is an interview with the Greens who are highlighting their plans to build more council houses and end Right to Buy.

Absolutely.

It's ridiculous to suggest the housing crisis is a difficult or intractable issue.

It's harder to think of another political problem which is so easy to solve.

There are probably 20 or 30 policy options that would work, to a greater or lesser degree,

and one of those options is just to do nothing at all.

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I don't think the problem is just that the "under 40, priced out of housing" group is outweighed by the other groups. It's that the priced out group is split in two.

One group think the housing market is the problem. There should be rent controls, regulations, governments should build houses etc.

The other group thinks the absence of a market is a problem. Interest rates should be set by markets not central banks. There should not guarantees for institutions or people (providing a strong incentive for risk aversion). Governments should not arbitrarily prevent houses being built where people want to live. There should not be tax advantages for property versus other investments etc.

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Immigration has been thrust to the top of the agenda as UKIP's success has demonstrated their competitors' failure to grasp the mood of the British people on the issue; the NHS, education and so on - central to the fabric of people's lives.

"Their competitors" haven't failed to grasp the mood of the British people on any issue. They've just ignored the mood and when they haven't ignored it they've reneged on it. For many the tuition fees betrayal must have seemed like the last straw but no along came the Help to Buy (Sell) and the crazies with the mega bubble house prices.

UKIP is as much about giving the UK people a say on the something that all of their competitors have repeatedly reneged on and that's a referendum on the eu. It's called the United Kingdom Independence Party - independence is in their name.

Edited by billybong

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Lots of home-owners have been carefully trained to think that they are better off because of house price increases.

Vested Interests control the media, which creates the public opinion that determines government policy to benefit the vested interests.

Possibly true although I think it is a bit of a chicken and egg argument now. BTW I am a home owner and I know that if houses had not risen a penny since 2001 (when I bought my first flat) I would be better off today.

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I don't think the problem is just that the "under 40, priced out of housing" group is outweighed by the other groups. It's that the priced out group is split in two.

One group think the housing market is the problem. There should be rent controls, regulations, governments should build houses etc.

The other group thinks the absence of a market is a problem. Interest rates should be set by markets not central banks. There should not guarantees for institutions or people (providing a strong incentive for risk aversion). Governments should not arbitrarily prevent houses being built where people want to live. There should not be tax advantages for property versus other investments etc.

Why can't we have both?

Rent controls, secure tenancies and council housing ensuring everyone has a decent home.

And then an end to housing benefit, Help to Buy, shared ownership, QE, emergency interest rates, planning reform, to allow market forces to find the real cost of home ownership without the subsidies.

Both left and right are screwed by the current system - clinging to the divisions of last century is counterproductive.

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Most of us aspire to being homeowners, just not at current prices. The merits of renting have been discussed at length here (flexibility, mobility, maintenance etc). Despite all of these advantages, I believe a lot of our most prolific posters would buy, if houses became affordable (big assumption and disregards likely economic chaos of a HPC). Why is there this 'compulsion' to own, with all the potential downsides? Ultimately a lot of LL's are f┬ąckwits (refer to early pages of the West Brom thread), and current tenancies provide minimal security of tenure.

If nobody is prepared to allow building, if nobody is prepared to trigger a HPC (IR hike and/ or MMR for BTL), then we must force the debate on tenancy reform. If we don't do it now, it'll be another 5 years of props and ZIRP.

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I don't think the problem is just that the "under 40, priced out of housing" group is outweighed by the other groups. It's that the priced out group is split in two.

One group think the housing market is the problem. There should be rent controls, regulations, governments should build houses etc.

The other group thinks the absence of a market is a problem. Interest rates should be set by markets not central banks. There should not guarantees for institutions or people (providing a strong incentive for risk aversion). Governments should not arbitrarily prevent houses being built where people want to live. There should not be tax advantages for property versus other investments etc.

That's an excellent way of summing it up.

Depressing to a degree, but well thought through.

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Why is there this 'compulsion' to own, with all the potential downsides?

Getting chucked out by a landlord who's selling isn't the best of experiences - of course, nor would stretching to buy at at the top of the London bubble and it crashing straight afterwards.

Zugzwang!

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