The problem is not that people lack the resources to buy houses; it is that there are simply not enough houses. People are living longer, more choose to live singly, and immigrants increase the population. Schemes that help people to obtain mortgages direct extra funds into housing without increasing the supply, and put more upward pressure on house prices.
The Green Belt acts as a corset around our cities, forcing people to live beyond it and commute through it, with attendant pollution and congestion. They need houses near the edge of cities, but the Green Belt stops them.
The first step is to classify Green Belt land into its three types. There is verdant land, with fields, meadows and woods – what most people think of when they think about Green Belts. There is ‘brown,’ or damaged land, including abandoned mines and quarries and former industrial buildings. Thirdly there is agricultural land, much of it given to intensive cultivation on vast fields using fertilizers and pesticides. It falls well short of being environmentally friendly.
Once the land is classified into its three types, the verdant land should be left untouched. All of the ‘brown’ land should be made available for building. In addition a one-mile deep strip of agricultural land at the inner edge of the Green Belt should be made available for house-building. In compensation, at least a mile of agricultural land beyond the outer edge of the Green Belt should be added to it as verdant Green Belt.
The grant of planning permission within this extra land near cities would dramatically lower the cost of housing land, putting downward pressure on house prices. The million extra homes that could be built on this land would have a similar effect. A move such as this would increase the supply of housing and make it less expensive, bringing home-ownership within reach of many.
Furthermore, there would be a net gain of properly ‘green’ land by the outer extension of the Belt with more verdant land. The prospect of extra housing, a curb on the upward spiral of prices, and with no loss of green land, all suggest this might be a practical and popular help to the housing problem.