Since I opened Crayson in 2010 there have been 23 incidents of increased tax and regulations on property. The press has had countless column inches taken up by commentary and opinions relating to property taxes, increased regulations for non-doms, inheritance tax, and so on. What to do? Lobby the government, moan or sit back and roll with the punches?
Let’s not forget that one of the things that made Britain great was its ability to shape itself to an ever changing world. We were responsible for the Agricultural Revolution and then the Industrial Revolution. What we are now going through, it would seem, is a Property Revolution.
In feudal times, it was the landlords who owned all the property and it is only relatively recently that there has been this concept of democratic property ownership. One of the major turning points was when Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government opened up property to the masses through the Housing Act of 1980.
So why are we now so hooked on property ownership in the UK, when the rest of Europe is more than happy to rent? Living on an island, we are used to a certain level of isolationism, so the idea of land ownership and a fence to separate may be anathema to the concept of ‘‘no man is an island entire of Itself’’ (John Donne) – but we are used to thriving on our own in adverse conditions.
Indeed, late 19th-century British foreign policy under the then prime minister Benjamin Disraeli and his foreign secretary, the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, was characterised by the term ‘splendid isolation’ where we pursued policies independently from our neighbours.
In the current socio-political environment, the UK is clamouring for low-cost housing, but is unable to see that this is mostly provided at the behest of the private sector – especially in London where projects require low-cost elements in order to proceed. Mayor Sadiq Khan can demand what he wants from the builders, but without the right incentives, targets will not be met. The councils and housing associations do not have the funding to build, so it is about time that everyone realised that there is now a heavy reliance on private sector money.
This country needs to take a serious look at housing policy and its relationship with private ownership. The damage caused over the past few years can be undone and we can get back on track.