May. 4th, 2017

mtbc: maze N (blue-white)
Much of the rural central USA has liberal zoning: one can quite affordably buy a hayfield, have a cellar dug out, put a prefabricated house on top and live there. In Ohio I used to own several acres of land. This is one of the reasons for which I fully expect to move back to the US: I might then actually be able to afford somewhere I would want to live! I do not need anywhere grand or fashionable but I would like it to be my own space, not on top of my neighbors. I was fine in Ohio with our well water and septic system and whatnot.

Here in Britain planning permission makes it very difficult indeed to simply buy some land and have a house built there, perhaps partly because of the much higher population density. In the news I happened upon a quote from Legal & General about how on average houses cost more than seven times one's annual salary. I do not know if it is quite that bad but it does rather look as if over the past twenty years UK house prices have more than doubled relative to earnings. Ten years ago we had the Callcutt Review of House Building Delivery noting a considerable imbalance between supply and demand that seems to persist to this day. Looking further back in time, I see that over the past few decades house construction has been much less than when my parents were young.

I do not know what caused this nor what the solutions are. I am handsomely creditworthy and my bank is quite surprised not to be loaning me plenty for a mortgage but I cannot bear to take a loan that is some multiples of my income: our lovely house in Ohio cost not much more than twice my salary at that time but around here it would take more than triple to afford even a two-bedroom bungalow for the four of us. The situation in the UK feels like an increasing inequality even brushing rentier capitalism. I do not know if, for example, more garden cities are a good idea but any building plan bold enough to truly make much difference would also indirectly cost existing homeowners substantially. I thus do not expect to buy while I live here. Unfortunately, UK credit history is worthless in the US, so once I do return there I then have to begin to rebuild my credit from scratch with secured cards and the like.

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Mark T. B. Carroll

July 2017

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