What Labour ‘Yimbyism’ will lead to in practice
‘Nicolas 30 ans’ may be in it’s final death throes as a meme but I am yet to see a more precise communication of the fiscal slavery that it is to be a productive young man in modern western society. Of the extreme tax burdens he shoulders to Support the pensioners he rents from, and the recent arrivals who harass his girlfriend on the street. Politicians across the aisle endorse esteemed think tank reports calling for him to be drafted into National Service; he will receive broadly the same amount of state benefits that someone born over a decade before the welfare state received. He will never buy a house unless he flees to the Midlands.
What success the ‘Yimby’ movement has had in building a political audience in Britain has been contingent on communicating this material reality to graduates stuck in the rental sector, and offering a solution – mass house building. We have our criticisms of this analysis (CF: The immigration theory of nothing and the provisional license lifestyle) but let us not forget their critical role in laundering Anon thought in 2020-21, feeding the beast that will eventually consume them. Behind your thick glasses, and that big stupid grin; oh precious useful innocent! You shall not be forgotten!
Many such ‘Yimby’ people are now moving over to the Labour party after they announced plans to jump start planning, build 1.5 million homes ‘and save the dream of homeownership’ once they are in power. ‘Priced Out UK’, a charity that lobbies for the rights of renters and prospective home buyers from a Yimby perspective, recently held an event at the Adam Smith Institute which proudly introduced Andrew Western, a Labour MP, as their Parliamentary champion. This is understandable after two years of frustrated intrigues with various Tories who make the rights noises on street votes like Robert Jenrick and Michael Gove leading nowhere.
But will this improve the living standard for the renting graduate class of which the Yimby movement is comprised; of Nicolas 30 ans? Should you feel even the slightest bit of optimism at Labour’s vaunted ‘Yimby shift’, if you find yourself in this unhappy category? Let’s review the Policy.
Labour are seeking a short-term boost to housebuilding by reforms within the current planning system, rather than planning an overhaul of the entire system. There will not be an abolition of the Town and Country Planning Act which would permit property owners to build whatever they like on their own land without the interference of local neurotics. This will not be a housebuilding programme led by the iron laws of supply and demand but by active state intervention – without loosened planning laws it will fall on the centre to overawe local councils.
This state intervention (if it does happen) will be flavoured by the ideological prejudices of the party of government, and so it should be of no surprise that Angela Rayner is pledging to deliver “the biggest boost in affordable and social housing for a generation.”
Speaking to Labour Party conference, Rayner announced that Labour would achieve this by;
· Ensuring developers can no longer wriggle out of their commitments to build more social and affordable homes, by only allowing developers to challenge cases where there are genuine barriers to delivering these new homes.
· Making the Affordable Homes Programme (AHP) more flexible, include enabling funds to be diverted to projects where there is higher demand.
· Allowing Homes England, Councils and housing associations to use a greater proportion of grant funds that they receive to buy social and affordable homes from existing housing stock, so they can get the homes needed and help deliver stalled sites.
Affordable housing targets are nonsensical and seen within industry as an obstacle to be overcome. For planners and builders, the planning system is so complex and expensive to navigate that it is easy to negotiate them down with council planning departments on the grounds they make a site financially unviable. Wriggling out of these commitments is part of their job, something Labour would like to put a stop to.
Currently developers arguing for a reduction in viability, wriggling out, have to have their project independently assessed. If this assessment deems affordable housing to be unviable, the requirement can be safely ignored. Labour plan is to create national guidance on viability levels across different parts of the country, and a model assessment form that developers and councils can use when evaluating it.
This will be used as a tool by Labour to reduce the ‘wriggle room’ that developers have to ignore these targets, in practice leading to less private homes being built. This is a disaster for Nicolas who does not belong to the legally recognised class of ‘Vulnerable’ – these satraps who do not have to trouble themselves with the vagaries of the private housing sector.