Sunday, January 24, 2010

A step in the right direction

Government considers doubling council tax on second homes

Council chiefs are demanding powers to impose steep increases in council tax on properties kept as second homes or holiday lets. Under the plans, bills would rise to DOUBLE the standard rate, leaving some owners thousands of pounds out of pocket.

Posted by waitingtobuy @ 12:42 PM (2733 views)
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55 thoughts on “A step in the right direction

  • Islington council, in London, which is also Lib Dem-controlled, said in its submission: “Empty homes puts enormous pressure on existing houses and pushes up the price of homes.

    They are catching on(libs that is)

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  • Enoughalready says:

    Bloody wonderful!

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  • And they should do for people who have a home but buy a second or more to let.

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  • Since this would go a great way towards a more balanced society and generally making the country a more pleasant place to live, we can safely assume it won’t happen.

    >They are catching on (libs that is)

    Hopefully they’ll base their election platform on this, and take a large chunk of votes from the tories.

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  • mark wadsworth says:

    It’s a smashing idea, in principle, but once you get into detail it would be unenforceable.

    Far better to leap-frog directly to land value tax or property value tax, which would do the job far better.

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  • stillthinking says:

    However they dress this up its is an increase in taxation. Remember when 4x4s were being vilified as justification for a tax increase, then huge numbers of the population get snowed in.
    I have no real objection to this tax but the government and councils need to accept the mindset of cuts, all this demonstrates is a willingness to pass on costs. Drinking, parking,eating chocolate covered biscuits, driving, flying somewhere, it won’t be possible to avoid being in some specially targeted group.

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  • Bring it on! I’d actually consider voting for them if they did that.

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  • Sorry I should have added … and becuase I want to see Brown eat his mess as well.

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  • We need 300 – 500 of the 1500+ second homes in St Ives to come back into residential use, so this type of tax is essential in Cornwall where second homes or properties bought as speculative investments remove properties from the real housing market; a penalising tax should be applied here with the aim of returning properties to residential use. ( I also agree with MWs LVT comment).

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  • Doubt it would help Kernow prices and more importantly it still doesn’t address the issue of BTL speculation….

    My parents own my old granddads house near Polzeath/Port Isacc in Cornwall. My sister rents it from them as she’s a teacher in Newquay – a good deal for them both as it’s mental in that area with prices and nothing but a caravan can be rented for the full year. Doubling the council tax would just see my parents sell the house to a Londoner who could afford it – it wouldn’t solve the issue of holiday lets

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  • It will be very difficult to enforce. Is it done on the basis of whose name is on the deeds, in which case, Mr owns property A and Mrs owns property B. In Ireland they have a Non-Principal Residence tax so the owner of a property they do not live in as their main home has a 200 eu per annum levy even if their main home is rented. This is proving difficult to enforce and requires self-registration as there are no central databases of who lives in a particular property. This might be more easy to enforce in the UK.

    However, I am opposed to punitive tax as a solution to regulate behaviour particularly if it isn’t going to work. And it wouldn’t work . . . second home owners are often LATs (living apart couples) or so wealthy, the extra cost won’t prevent them from owning second properties. If something is wrong, it should be legislated against. And second home ownership is not wrong per se, it has only caused problems because of draconian planning restrictions in rural areas. What they need to do is build leasehold houses on public land and they can sell them at cost price + small profit margin (or rent them ) with a stipulation that they can only be resold/ rented to people working in the borough so that local housing need can always be met.

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  • 6. powerofnow said…

    We need 300 – 500 of the 1500+ second homes in St Ives to come back into residential use, so this type of tax is essential in Cornwall where second homes or properties bought as speculative investments remove properties from the real housing market; a penalising tax should be applied here with the aim of returning properties to residential use. ( I also agree with MWs LVT comment).

    I don’t know how many would sell their second home because of the increased price of owning it……but it’s a step in the right direction – second home owners should be taxed to reflect the distortion that their choice cause in the housing market.
    Free to buy – but pay the cost to everyone else…..shelter is an essential, like food. water and warmth.

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  • That would get my vote, even if the details are to be decided. It’d be a huge discouragement to property speculators.

    Lewes district council, in East Sussex, asked for legislation allowing councils to “set increased council tax rates for properties kept solely as second homes or used as holiday lets”.

    Lewes – Norman Baker’s constituency. He has a formidable reputation as an exposer of government corruption.

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  • Mark Wad–lvt would be ideal,but even the thought of this proposed tax will put off anybody thinking of buying a 2nd property,or selling the one they have.

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  • Mr TS and I are a classic “Living Apart Together” couple, a demographic of the population which is rapidly increasing (current research suggests 2 million couples). This is a commited couple (who may or may not be married) who maintain separate households rather than cohabiting. We spend 6 days together (4 days at my place, 2 at his and 1 day apart) so theoretically we are a second home owning couple (even though this isn’t a ‘holiday home’ arrangement) but there is nothing legally joining us together. My place is in my name and all my bills are registered there, PAYE record, electoral register etc. and his place is in his. How are you supposed to prove this, or will it just be on the basis of marriage (ie a married couple count as one person) which will surely act as yet another disincentive against marriage to add to the list.

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  • Good thing, but still interest on debt on second homes or other 100 homes should be made non deductible. Hard working families do not have the interest on their mortgage debt deducted from their income do they?

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  • How about a reform on the out-dated non-taxation of “Farms” and their land, which the toffs have used for generations to avoid both capital gains and inheritance tax, smugly deriving income by flogging off “their” land drip by drip for development to house the “proles” like us.

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  • TS that sounds to me like an unusual arrangement. Is it driven by choice or necessity?

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  • Choice. Apparently, there are three categories of LATs … gladly aparts, reluctantly aparts (due to work commitments etc.) and undecidedly apart (committed but not looking to cohabitation at the time). We are a cross between the first and third categories. I prefer having my own place, the autonomy it gives and I need a lot of undisturbed silent time to work on my dissertation. However, we’re hoping to start a family soon and I think when the children get to around four years old, they will probably be better off with both of us around all the time, plus it will be cheaper to run just one home. But we’ll keep my place in London and Mr TS will sell up and have a place in Ireland, so we will still have the option to go back to living apart together.

    The strange thing is, research shown this is fairly common but I don’t know anyone else who has a similar arrangement.

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  • I also add, my need for autonomy and personal space is explained perfectly by Douglas Coupland in Generation X (I gre up as one of six children).

    Bradyism: (page 134)
    A multisibling sensibility derived from having grown up in large families. A rarity in those born after approximately 1965, symptoms of Bradyism include a facility for mind games, emotional withdrawal in situations of overcrowding, and a deeply felt need for well-defined personal space.

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  • charlie brooker says:

    Tax : always the lazy, knee-jerk solution.

    The proper solution is ensure that when properties come on to the market those already owning properties are pushed to the back of the queue, allowing first timebuyers to have first refusal.

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  • @tenant super: My place is in my name and all my bills are registered there, PAYE record, electoral register etc. and his place is in his. How are you supposed to prove this…

    In St Ives it’s easy….. most of downlong has been empty since the end of October half term and will remain empty until Feb half term…. non-resident properties are easily identifiable by the yellow pages sitting on the door step; however the empty non-residential houses are the vast majority and the lived in ones the tiny minority identifiable by signs of human life, i.e. lights, fires, laughter, sandy shoes on the doorstep….

    [this post was sponsored by move to St Ives to live]

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  • I quite agree Charlie. Not only lazy but highly ineffective. A modern twist on the almshouses or conditional leaseholds (the sale / rent will ensure the projects pay for themselves if done properly) for local workers/ first time buyers are the proper solution.

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  • powerofnow

    What you suggest isn’t a second home tax but a non-principal residence tax (as they have in Ireland). Ultimately it requires certain amount of detective work. And what if people do what Baroness Uddin did when suspected of not living in her “main home” (go round in cover of darkness to make it looked lived in), get timed light switches to go on and off periodically or employ a cleaner to go in once a week and collect the post. You would need to pay the inspectors, collect photo evidence and witness statements from neighbours etc. for the benefit of the court and this would no doubt cost more than the extra tax you collect.

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  • @super tenant: In areas where there is no problem or the impact is not so severe I agree with your comment… but in problem areas where there is a known glut of non-resident property which are clearly just used as holiday let/investments, it would be easy to achieve and be well worth the effort.

    I don’t really care what the tax is called so long as it’s targeted and heavy enough to bring back some of the properties to the community. The greater value would be the benefit of year round residents living and spending in the town, which would keep businesses open year round as they now have to close due to the drop in winter population.

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  • Hi TS and best of luck. I’m sure my time spent on this site is the equivalent of withdrawl from the world, into a realm of speculation and brittle theorizing, the mental equivalent of a garden shed, where I can hang out with other intimacy avoiders. Ironically intimacy avoiders avoid the intimacy because they need it.

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  • Powerofnow,

    If someone is determined enough to say a house is lived in, I don’t think you can prove otherwise without a level of spying that could be seen as a breach of the right to a private life. There is already a case going through court from a woman who was spied on by the council who (wrongly) suspected her of lying about her address to get her kids into a good school. If she wins this case, there is no way this could be implemented. And how are the locals going to feel when mistakenly suspected of being a second home-owner because the inspectors happen to pass when they’re away, and they have surveillance operations put on them?

    Do you not think carrot (building homes exclusively for locals) is better than this dubious stick approach?

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  • @ts: I think that libertarian londoners should allow others to decide for themselves how to manage their own situation, or you just another victim of homeownerism fighting to protect your investment? I suspect that you don’t have the first inkling of an idea what our situation is or care very much if we solve it. This is not about spying or government intrusion this is about finding local solutions to problems you clearly don’t have to live with; fortunately the locals here know each other by name and sight; we know the investment properties because they have slate nameplates outside like “www.QuaintCornishCottage.co.uk”. We welcome new residents from all over the world to live here, the more the merrier, you’d be welcome to live here if you want just don’t expect a warm welcome if you see our homes as a good investment and leave it empty for half the year….

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  • I don’t have any property ‘investment’. I have one home which I live in. My boyfriend has one home which he lives in. I have family in Brixham, Devon (two retired uncles, both married to locals) and I stay with them most summers so there is no need for me to buy a holiday home apart from which, I don’t actually think they’re good ‘investment’ anyway. I am as eager for a hpc as the next person (as we need to upgrade).

    Your pejorative scorn of slate house nameplates really makes we wonder whether this is really a ‘solution’ (and I don’t think this would free up very many houses even if it were enforcable) or is it just emmet/ grockle bashing?
    I appreciate the difficulties many rural areas face and strongly believe that there is justification for building rented and leasehold properties for locals so that children can stay in the places they grew up in. The problem with you local solution of a grockle tax is that this is telling people that you must live in a certain way and if they don’t comply, the good old staple of punitive taxation. Yes, I am unashamedly libertarian.

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  • Once again this is all about inequality, and those who benefit from the inequalities tend to defend it, while condemning taxes that attempt to redistribute wealth and create a fairer society as an attack on freedom. There may well be better ways to tax 2nd-home ownership but increases in council taxes are probably the easiest (politically anyway) to implement. It wasn’t so long ago that 2nd homes received a reduction in council tax – I think that went some time ago.

    Nor is this a question about strict planning laws. However much new building is allowed, the wealthy, if allowed, will sequestrate the best for themselves. Hence in Cornwall we see entire pretty fishing villages standing empty all week, while the locals live in the crummy new estates built inland. It is hard to imagine any law being introduced to prevent this; the most practicable solution is to make it too expensive through the tax system to make it worthwhile for the majority. And income tax is also a part of this. If certain occupations receive huge rewards via the country’s economic rents (eg bankers), the wealth should be redistributed. A progressive tax system would go a long way to solving these problems. The alternative is a steady drift towards countries like the US, and worse, some S American states.

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  • What MW says above .Also re tenant super 25 ,what is libertarian about making sure that ordinary people can’t live in places where there’s work and amenities; that they have to pay 100k for the ground beneath their houses,more in St Ives and London? Our second oldest lad is likely to move to Vietnam to do VSO,because although a classic entrepreneur/project manager he can’t hack 800 pounds a month for rent+accommodation charges in our dreary E Midlands town.So damn you and your libertaranism for the rich.

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  • I love the libertarians…. lets make up a law which says that if you fence off an area of common/shared land it’s becomes your property…. the libertarians built their whole philosophy around theft of land and resources…. it’s only right

    [meanwhile don’t anyone let on that we know we only live on 8% of the land in the UK – the whole land price fix is a scam set up and maintained by so called free market libertarians]

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  • dbc, I would love to make sure that ordinary people can live in places where there’s work and amenities. I would do this by building accomodation for them at cost price + small margin on public land.

    ltf, The debate about redistribution of wealth could go on endlessly, and I am taking your comments on board and am open to being convinced that my right wing libertarian stance is wrong. The arguments have not yet convinced me but you make some very salient points.

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  • ‘lets make up a law which says that if you fence off an area of common/shared land it’s becomes your property…. the libertarians built their whole philosophy around theft of land and resources’.

    Even Locke, the most staunch defender of unrestricted capitalist accumulation made it very clear that simply by fencing off a piece of land did not make it private property. According to Locke, individual property is only justified if it can be shown that no one is made worse off by the appropriation. Land is scarce therefore those who are denied access to the good do have a legitimate objection to appropriation.
    Once the land land becomes scarce, property should only be legitimated by the state. As you say, only 8% of the land is utilized so the land is not yet scarce enough to restrict capital accumulation. What we need to do is liberalise planning laws. I loathe the price fixing of land by the political elites as much as you, this isn’t a true free market but corporatism.

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  • TS
    It does go on endlessly because there is no end to the inequalities in this country, or indeed the world. And the inequalities are growing again.

    Your suggestion about building at cost price (is the land paid for by the Govt then?) is another version of the term “affordable homes”, which is meaningless in the context of so-called free markets. In the SW, there has been new building, but they are poorer quality and in locations some way from where the inhabitants work. The inequality remains. Ultimately this leads to social breakdown and unrest. How this will eventually be manifested in the UK I can’t predict, but looking at somewhere like, say, Brazil or the good ol’ USA shows what happens in very unequal societies. Perhaps the employees of Goldman Sachs offered an indicator when they all started packing hand guns at work to protect themselves from the discontents out there.

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  • is the land paid for by the Govt then?

    They can buy cheap arable land which has no planning permission for private developers and sell the houses on for cost price of the build plus the land. This would be affordable in a real sense rather than the [email protected], ‘mortgage yourself to the hilt to buy one row of bricks and rent the rest of the house at extortionate rate’ schemes. Or they can put restricted planning permission (restricted to locals working in the borough) in place. They won’t do that because they want to keep their chums at Wimpey happy and I am totally opposed to that kind of corporatism.

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  • @ tenant super
    My apologies for my anger above but I have had housing affordability problems of my own on several occasions in my lifetime and now see a second generation going through it: much worse IMO.
    Please explain how a policy of council housing on public land (there’s loads of it in London,not)is libertarian.Face it: libertarianism without a Land Tax is tosh,but tosh that makes it impossible to live here.

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  • Hardly libertarian free markets though, is it?

    The idea of restricting housing to locals has already been done, but unless you maintain such rules indefinitely the problem would continue. Far better to reddress the distortions of economic rents through taxation.

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  • Libertarian property rights logically fail when a resource is scare. What I am suggesting is not council properties (to be filled with the workless) but houses for sale to working people at cost price. This restores autonomy to be able to buy a house at what it really costs, to individuals who have currently been priced out by coropratism, bailouts and reflation of a housing bubble.

    I have three priced out brothers in their twenties in the South East and six priced out (or soon to be priced out) cousins in Devon (aged between 5 and 28) and I want to see all the props, bail outs and land price fixing through planning restrictions removed so that the market naturally is allowed to correct.

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  • Tenant Super does not think clearly. [Or tries to deflect reason with politics]

    @TS: According to Locke…. Land is scarce therefore those who are denied access to the good do have a legitimate objection to appropriation….
    I am objecting.

    @TS: Once the land land becomes scarce, property should only be legitimated by the state….
    I encourage them to do so, 300-500 of the 1700 empty homes back to residential use in St Ives would be a good place to start

    @TS: As you say, only 8% of the land is utilized so the land is not yet scarce enough to restrict capital accumulation.
    I see what you did there…. the other 92% is mostly privately owned by a very few who ‘UTILIZE’ the land for rental income; while the rest of us suffer from the over inflated land prices due to apparent scarcity…

    You can’t have it both ways, either land is scarce or it isn’t. I suggest the scarcity of our access to land in the UK is due to historic claims on land by just a few people which have deprived generations of people of benefiting from the value of land.

    Come over from the dark side tenant super

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  • No, it isn’t an ideal libertarian free market… I believe that by removing the life support machine from the housing market would enable the market to correct naturally anyway and the local housing scheme would probably prove unecessary anyway.

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  • Come over from the dark side tenant super

    I am a long standing member of ABC tales, a left leaning writing website and I remember on the forums some years ago, when I abandoned some of my more radical anacho capitalist beliefs, a friend said, “I always knew you’d come around eventuallly, given more time and less cider.”

    I haven’t drunk cider for many years but perhaps need more time.

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  • @TS: As a free market Libertarian I imaging you support the idea of paying for what you use? I wonder what your thoughts on a Land Value Tax (the full single tax option) as a charge payable to the community for the use of the land.

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  • TS
    But the props are the intrinsic inequalities in wealth and land ownership. Figures are hard to pin down (and 50% British land is unregistered apparently) but a very large proportion of the land is owned by a small proportion of the population. Even leaving aside the large acreage still in the hands of the aristrocracy (dating from Norman times), the land wealth distribution is plainly grossly unequal. The props are very little to do with Govt policy, which will almost certainly prove temporary, but the deep economic/social structures that exist and the broad unwillingness of recent govts to do anything about them.

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  • I am slowly warming to the idea. MW puts across a very cogent case for this being the least-worst tax from a free market libertarian perspective as it is a charge for the use of something (as you rightly say). Since private property rights theory falls when it comes to land, this is a good idea, so long as it is leasehold style tax (a ‘ground rent’) based on the square metres of land you use. I am still a little dubious about valuing on the basis of niceness area, but perhaps as a compromise, the tax could be fixed per sqm in individual boroughs.
    It is certainly better than Council tax.

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  • In the late seventies, my father able to buy a nice 3 bedroom maisonette with a large garden in a Surrey village on a junior accountant’s salary (my mother didn’t work) and the inequalities existed then. That maisonette would now be advertised for 10x my salary (slightly higher than a junior accountant) or 5 x our joint salary. That’s all people like me want, a modest home to raise a family in… and take away those government props (low interest rates, moratorium on repossessions, bail-out-rescue-schemes) and we’d pretty much get it.

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  • Same here TS all people everywhere want is a home in the community they were born into; affordable on local wages, unfortunately in Cornwall we are in the mid teens of income multiples and the result is dying communities. It looks like we are in the same boat really…. probably with the same solution if we can put our differences aside.

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  • Always been inequalities; probably always will be. The point is society and govt should attempt to reduce them. At present they are increasing rapidly, as you are seeing. Economic policies are not entirely devoted to keeping house prices high, which are far more a product of the flow of money into housing, itself partly a result of economic inequality and the credit fed so freely.

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  • In Ireland, there are similar problems with inequalities and as I can’t buy in the place I grew up in, we’ll buy a family home in the place Mr TS grew up in. For a while that would have been unaffordable too but prices have crashed in pretty Galway countryside by 35% at least and it’s still heading down. The Irish crash has little to do with the property charge added to non-principal residences, this was just political posturing. The cheap credit crunched and the UK printed money and shored up the banks with it (the banks then have less pressure to liquidate repos and the government, having a stake can arm-twist them). Ireland has only been saved by a bubble reflation by the ECB.

    And if the banks had not been bailed out how many of the second owners in St Ives would have lost their jobs/ or high wages and been forced to sell? Economic policies are not entirely devoted to keeping house prices high but they are still highly devoted.

    In the last crash (in the nineties) did Cornish property correct to a reasonable multiple of local salary? It certainly did in Brixham where my Uncle bought a nice four bedroom house on a nurse’s wage. This could happen again without government meddling either to prop prices up or to tax second home owners.

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  • * sorry, I meant “Ireland has only been saved FROM a bubble reflation by the ECB”.

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  • [And if the banks had not been bailed out how many of the second owners in St Ives would have lost their jobs/ or high wages and been forced to sell?]
    We were rather hoping that more would sell, we’re still holding our breath….

    [In the last crash (in the nineties) did Cornish property correct to a reasonable multiple of local salary?]
    No not here they didn’t, this undermined the local communities and the rural economy which obviously made property here ripe for exploitation by investors during the recent bubble. Prices are currently set to suit the investor market rather than local home buyers; most properties in the area are sold to second home buyers (5 to 1 according to local MPs survey)

    it’s grim

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  • Some here seem to think that a Land Value Tax would help prevent housing boom and bust.
    So what is this Land Value Tax and how is it different from Property Value Tax?

    If there are similar then Land Value Tax would do nothing to prevent house price boom and busts.
    This is based on the experiences of California and Hong Kong, in both cases properties are assessed (comped) and the taxes are levied on the assessed value. However, both California’s and Hong Kong’s house prices have gone through numerous boom and bust. In fact, Hong Kong house prices are booming again (>30% increase in the past year).

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  • Wow, thanks for that link Shipbuilder, that’s pretty much exactly where I am at the moment! I’m going to read the whole text of Friedrich Hayek as it looks intriguing.

    The only slight point at which I balk is the notion of the land belongs to the community as I am unsure a theoretical construct like the state or society or community can own anything. I can see that the use of land belongs to mankind but the ground rent should be paid not to the community because everyone owns it. Ground rent should be paid to an elect body because this is the only way of ensuring just land access for future and current generations. But this is just a linguistic quibble. I am really taken by this position.

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  • thanks shipbuilder….. this says it all

    The differences between geolibertarians and other libertarians arise at this point. Geolibertarians recognize that the rule of law, protection of private property and provision of public goods are undoubtedly public benefits, but the resulting economic advantages go wholly to landowners because they control access to those benefits. As a result, it is economically feasible for many to hold economically valuable land out of use and still profit from the general rise of rents. This is in contrast to most capital goods, which can benefit their owner only if they’re put into the service of others, that is, if they’re used for production rather than withheld from production. Thus, as the great self-made industrialist Andrew Carnegie observed, “The most comfortable, but also the most unproductive way for a capitalist to increase his fortune, is to put all monies in sites and await that point in time when a society, hungering for land, has to pay his price.”

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