If someone is going to set up a commission on social housing - a Social Housing Commission even - then we'd not expect them to start telling us all that social housing isn't needed, or we've enough of it, or, in fact, anything other than that we should be spending billions and billions to have very much more of it.
Fortunately, Ed Miliband and Jim O'Neill don't disappoint:
Our commission will produce concrete recommendations in the autumn, but our work so far leads the two of us to be clear about some basic principles. We must end the prejudice against new social housing which has afflicted our country and damaged people’s lives. And we must see social housing not only as a last resort for the neediest, but as something to meet the demands of those in dire need and those for whom owning is out of reach. Reasonably priced social housing could make all the difference.
We must make a profound and generational shift away from a belief that housing benefits alone can solve this problem and back towards investment in bricks and mortar and a view that affordable housing is a national asset like other infrastructure. And we need to understand that, with the costs of borrowing at historic lows but the sense of anxiety about the prospects of future generations at such a high, investment in social housing is an absolute and vital necessity for our country, whatever party is in government.
Well, yes, that doesn't disappoint, does it? Self-appointed investigation into pet project demands oodles for pet project. We're surprised, right?
Sadly, there's a significant error in their thinking:
Indeed, we believe that experience and the historical record in Britain suggest something important. The market on its own will never produce the large quantities of low-cost housing that we need.
The market did - in the 1930s that free market, unadorned, produced some 300,000 dwellings a year. That being before the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 (the decade wait there over some European unpleasantness) stopped people from being able to build the houses people wanted to live in where they wanted to live.
So, if we wish to have that volume of housebuilding again the obvious answer is to remove the government imposed bans upon building. As is so often true the solution to one of our ailments is indeed government action. All we have to do is stop government doing what is causing our ailment. Something which a real investigation, rather than a commission, would point out to us.