The English government has hit upon a great idea to solve the affordable housing problem without building any. Houses left empty for more than a year by owners will be seized and leased by local authorities under new plans [via]. Of course, vacant buildings with valid reasons (for-sale, holiday homes, second homes, etc) will be exempt. The houses can be returned to the owners after leasing them for seven years. The government, of course, hasn’t mentioned affordable housing as its motives. That is my suggestion and I don’t see why not. Please do not confuse affordable housing with low-income slums as most people oft do, but they can be homes to people who earn 80% of the median income in the region and couldn’t have afforded a home in the area under normal circumstances.
Such overt government action over private property is nothing new. In other more serious cases of tax delinquency, local authorities can foreclose your property and auction it off on the courtroom step or add it to their land bank for public amenity provision. Markets are usually effective in allocating housing but experience has shown us that this often segregates the population and creates pockets of poverty, dereliction, and anti-social behavior. The ill-effects of such regions (think black ghettos) can often act like the proverbial bad apple and spill over to other areas. According to me (and to the imminent chagrin of libertarians), such market intervention is admissible. Affordable housing is a multi-faceted problem and discussion thereof beyond the scope of this blog. The English government’s measure can undoubtedly be adapted to correct such market failures. More on affordable housing later.