Nationalise land!

Submitted by AWL on 14 April, 2015 - 5:24 Author: Rhodri Evans

We should add two demands to Pete Gilman's list in his excellent article on socialist housing policy (Solidarity 358): nationalisation of land, and public ownership (state and municipal) of construction.

As Pete points out, most of the dwellings being built in London and other housing-shortage areas are for sale or rent at luxury levels. Yet they are not palaces with huge gardens. Mostly they are small flats built to ordinary construction specifications.

The profits from their high prices go to property developers or landlords.

The real-estate advisers Savills report that: "London residential land values have grown by 87% since their low of March 2009, and now, on average, exceed their 2007 peak", which according to government figures was £10.5 million per hectare.

Property developers make more than landlords, because much urban building land is publicly-owned, only a tiny proportion of land is bought and sold each year (so landlords can't cash in notional gains), and ground rents (the portion of rent paid to the owner of the land rather than the building) have since the 19th century become a small proportion of total rents.

Still, the Duke of Westminster got to no.10 in the Sunday Times Rich List 2015 on the strength of his landed wealth.

In 2013 Ed Miliband said that the profits of the four biggest housing developers had soared by 557% that year. He accused them of hoarding land to push up its value.

Public ownership of all land and of construction would cut out the property developers' and landlords' profits.

It would also create stable jobs for construction workers, and a chance to win good conditions. Coupled with authority for councils to compulsorily-purchase and redevelop underused property (there are still many more empty dwellings than homeless), it would quickly allow everyone a decent home.

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