First apologies for dragging up memories of the 1988 song by Yazz (and yes I did have to look it up). As a purveyor of science fiction I am naturally interested in what the future might bring. However, I’m also interested because I am the parent of two grown up children who are trying to make their way in the world and at some point may have children of their own.
Now I live in the UK, a small and some would say, overcrowded country. Although, when I see it from the air as I fly in or out of my homeland I am amazed at just how much of it is green and how little is actually built on. One of the problems that face this small island is housing. There is just not enough of it and as everyone agrees not enough new housing being built. It seems as if the law of supply and demand has broken down. At this point I would say I’m not trying to make any political points here, simply making an observation. Those involved would tell you it is a complex issue, but it seems to me that of all the problems that this country faces this is one that as a society we should be able to resolve. After all, as I say, everyone agrees we need more housing.
There is of course a number of ‘buts’ in all this. Some would say part of the problem is the banks still being reluctant to give loans to people to buy homes. That may be the case, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are not enough homes to buy. Then there’s the rising costs of the houses that are available. You would think that at some point they can’t rise further i.e. if people can’t afford to buy them etc. And there is some talk of an impending crash. Perhaps part of the issue is that the many of people who can afford buy, are those who are ‘buying to let’ which has a further negative impact on the situation for those struggling to buy for the first time.
However, I return to the underlying issue that not enough new houses are being built. Now we may all agree that more are needed, but what we can’t agree on is where or what. To my simple mind there needs to be some give in both these. I live in the south of our splendid country and everywhere I go I see signs saying: ‘Say no to new houses’, ‘Say no to building on the green belt’, ‘Say no to…’ well, you get the picture. So what we’re saying is yes we agree we need to build new houses, just not near me. This is happening in the village I live in. I’m not saying every planning scheme must be agreed, but at some point everyone’s house was a new house. So when did we start putting down the markers that said nothing can be allowed to change? As for the green belt, I understand worries of its erosion, but there are not enough ‘brown field sites’ so where else do you build? Also, take to the air, there is lots of it. And remember we are a small crowded island in need of housing.
This brings me to the what. In Europe (where land is more plentiful) a greater percentage of people seem to be happy to live in apartments. In crowded little England we want our house with its small patch of garden etc. That seems to be another area of disconnect there to me. And then, as I have written about before, despite all our technology there’s still this weird desire of more and more people and businesses wanting to gravitate to the cities.
So, while we all agree we need to build more houses, we need to accept that this will involve change. Both changes in our towns and villages (which is hardly a new thing) and changes perhaps to the way we live. That in some cases green belt will have to be sacrificed along with in some circumstances and especially in our cities, ‘the only way is up’.