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B444 - Appropriation of Abandoned Housing Bill 2012 (Second Reading)

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    (Original post by CyclopsRock)
    Sure, but there are a lot of sites out there that aren't fit for human habitation (or, even if legally they are, are horrible) and require planning permission for the work to fix them up. Eitherway, that's not really the point - there's a huge incentive here for the council to act against the will of the property owners, and not even to aid those without homes; But to benefit themselves. I don't like the government having the power to dick people over, because history suggests they'll use it unwisely.
    That's a decent point, actually. :holmes: I would hope that councils would put the interests of the collective ahead of themselves, but hey...

    In addition to Alofleicester's suggestion, perhaps we could include a clause to ensure that councils are not allowed to sell the property while homelessness remains in their area of jurisdiction?
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    (Original post by Abiraleft)
    I would hope that councils would put the interests of the collective ahead of themselves
    :rofl: Oh god that made me chuckle. Councils currently are nowhere near accountable enough to be trusted with the power this gives them over individual property rights. The fact that people vote for councils based on central government party representation just proves this.
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    (Original post by Keckers)
    :rofl: Oh god that made me chuckle. Councils currently are nowhere near accountable enough to be trusted with the power this gives them over individual property rights. The fact that people vote for councils based on central government party representation just proves this.
    Do you have any suggestions on how accountability could be increased in this regard, then? :holmes:
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    (Original post by Abiraleft)
    Do you have any suggestions on how accountability could be increased in this regard, then? :holmes:
    I'm actually working on a Local Government Bill, to be partnered with the Devolution Bill (which I can't remember many Socialists commenting on...), but the Monarchy referendum has temporarily delayed those.
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    (Original post by Abiraleft)
    Do you have any suggestions on how accountability could be increased in this regard, then? :holmes:
    By localising powers currently in the hands of central government, to make people value them more. I think the main problem is general apathy towards local councils, and the large role party politics somehow plays despite it being completely irrelevant.

    I guess my main problem is that the electorate are generally pretty stupid.
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    (Original post by CyclopsRock)
    Sure, but there are a lot of sites out there that aren't fit for human habitation (or, even if legally they are, are horrible) and require planning permission for the work to fix them up. Eitherway, that's not really the point - there's a huge incentive here for the council to act against the will of the property owners, and not even to aid those without homes; But to benefit themselves. I don't like the government having the power to dick people over, because history suggests they'll use it unwisely.
    Doesn't 2.1 cover the bit in bold?

    We'll work on something to deal with your broader criticism

    (Original post by TopHat)
    I'm actually working on a Local Government Bill, to be partnered with the Devolution Bill (which I can't remember many Socialists commenting on...), but the Monarchy referendum has temporarily delayed those.
    Which devolution bill? I think the socialist party members are generally pro-devolution so if it was increasing localism, i suspect the party would have largely been for it, perhaps they may not have commented as they couldn't see themselves as having a great input/great deal of constructive criticism for the bill. This is just speculative, but i do quite strongly suspect all socialists are localists.

    If it was the devolution of england bill, than it was a flat out no for me and there was nothing that could have been changed to make me vote for it, so despite reading the debate, i wouldn't have posted.
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    (Original post by paperclip)
    Which devolution bill? I think the socialist party members are generally pro-devolution so if it was increasing localism, i suspect the party would have largely been for it, perhaps they may not have commented as they couldn't see themselves as having a great input/great deal of constructive criticism for the bill. This is just speculative, but i do quite strongly suspect all socialists are localists.

    If it was the devolution of england bill, than it was a flat out no for me and there was nothing that could have been changed to make me vote for it, so despite reading the debate, i wouldn't have posted.
    http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show....php?t=1989868
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    Oh, i didn't realise it was so recent - i was looking in the division lobby for it! I'm not too sure, as it's an area i'm not fully informed in. However, it strikes me as pretty good, although Adorno raises a valid point. I'm not an MP, so i can't give it a vote, but perhaps i'll see what my colleagues think.

    If you're into reform work with Adorno too, he may be a pain to people to the right of him, but when he was in the socialist party he made successfully made it one of our aims and wrote a bill on it.
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    (Original post by stanlas)
    Apologies for not getting back to you earlier.

    For the land tax issue: the Bill is a permissive one, as it says "may be purchased by the County Council." Abandoned housing will only be purchased by a County Council if there is a real problem in that area.

    Hence, with the land tax there are two scenarios. Scenario one is that it works and there is no problem with abandoned housing; in that case, County Councils will chose not to use this Bill. Scenario two is that the land tax doesn't prevent abandoned housing problems; in that case, County councils will use this Bill to deal with the problem themselves.
    (Original post by Abiraleft)
    It will put them off, it will dissuade them - fine. But property that is unused despite the measures mentioned above should not be left be. I'd argue that giving the homeless space to live in is a more productive usage of land than the derivation of a land tax.

    There is a significant difference: the right to housing is a basic human right!

    Article 25 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the UK voted in favour of (and helped draft) in 1948:

    Article 31 of the Revised European Social Charter (article 16 in the original, if you're interested), which the UK signed in 1996:

    Article 11 (1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which the UK agreed to in 1966:

    Quite clearly, we do have a legal and humanitarian responsibility to fulfill and uphold basic human rights for all people. All three of the above also point out the importance of ensuring the security of human rights like housing through periods of unemployment, illness, etc which the homeless are likely to suffer from
    As I said in the previous reading, why not use the income the government gets from these uninhabited properties to put towards the cost of council housing? Instead of costing the taxpayer a damned sight more in buying the property at in what will most cases be a rather large sum (I think you'll find a lot of these houses are quite large as they belong to wealthy people who can afford to leave the country for long periods of time).

    If the property is in a prime location with surrounding areas with long waiting lists then the income generated from the LVT will bring in a hefty sum which will more than likely outweigh the cost of buying the property as well as taking only one family off the waiting list.

    (Original post by obi_adorno_kenobi)
    Nice Libertarian cliché there.
    Thanks. I do try
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    (Original post by Wednesday Bass)
    If the property is in a prime location with surrounding areas with long waiting lists then the income generated from the LVT will bring in a hefty sum which will more than likely outweigh the cost of buying the property as well as taking only one family off the waiting list.
    All this bill does is give councils the option to buy abandoned properties, it doesn't make it a necessity. With the LVT in mind, councils can make a cost-benefit analysis on buying up the land, rather than have the decision imposed from central government.
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    (Original post by paperclip)
    All this bill does is give councils the option to buy abandoned properties, it doesn't make it a necessity. With the LVT in mind, councils can make a cost-benefit analysis on buying up the land, rather than have the decision imposed from central government.
    It still gives the government opportunity to forcefully take private property away at less than the person would get if they sold it themselves.
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    (Original post by Wednesday Bass)
    It still gives the government opportunity to forcefully take private property away at less than the person would get if they sold it themselves.
    Well yes, but you didn't expect Socialists to agree with Libertarians on economic grounds did you? If there are criticisms such as cyclopsrock's we can do something about it. But other than having a debate about morality and private property, we're not gonna sway your opinions here.

    Beyond morality, this reduces the possibility of anti competitive practice from firms buying up land so their competitors can't. Tesco, IIRC, was accused of this a while ago. Actually, this article is quite interesting:

    "In Britain, its build-up of an estimated £14 billion unused property portfolio (held for years in readiness until planning applications are submitted) frequently attracted the attention of the regulators who claimed smaller chains were stopped from opening stores as most available sites for development were already owned by Tesco."

    You can argue that your LVT bill will already solve this problem. However, such an argument is purely speculative - it hasn't actually happened in the UK! If it does adequately deal with the problem of abandoned property, then it would just mean this bill hardly gets used.

    Now, returning to property. Property/land is a scarce resource. I believe that the ownership of the land should be in the hands of the community - all a government has done to earn it is 'steal' from us (i'm purposely using libertarian discourse here - taxes. As such, the government has no right to sell off land. However, due to population increases it's just not possible to allocate a plot of land to everyone. In this instance the LVT makes sense, the company/individual is reimbursing the country for using its land. However, abandoned property can still be a problem - it stifles competition, becomes used as drug dens (distinguished from squatting because squatters aren't allowed to break the law on occupied property), etc. Once upon a time in my area there was a bit of land that had been derilect for over 10 years, some hippies opened it up and turned it into an eco village/community garden. They cleaned up mountain of broken glass and other stuff that had just been dumped (fly tipping) there over the years, and opened it up to the community - children used to play there, they'd have gardening lessons, etc. This is an attempt to give some of this abandoned property back to its community.

    This is especially important now because at the moment we have an abundance of land that banks have repossessed but are failing to maintain. This land is an eyesore and counter productive whilst nothing of use is being done with it over a number of years - because the banks can't afford to redevelop or maintain the property! Land, as a scarce resource shouldn't be wasted. And if your LVT truly disincentivises people from abandoning it then good - but some clause needs to be added so properties are not left just sitting there getting overgrown and withering away with time.

    The broader social message this would send is the responsible use of property; that land is a community asset and if it is unused for a long period of time it should be given back to the community.
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    (Original post by Wednesday Bass)
    As I said in the previous reading, why not use the income the government gets from these uninhabited properties to put towards the cost of council housing? Instead of costing the taxpayer a damned sight more in buying the property at in what will most cases be a rather large sum (I think you'll find a lot of these houses are quite large as they belong to wealthy people who can afford to leave the country for long periods of time).

    If the property is in a prime location with surrounding areas with long waiting lists then the income generated from the LVT will bring in a hefty sum which will more than likely outweigh the cost of buying the property as well as taking only one family off the waiting list.
    I certainly agree that building more council houses is an important part of solving the problem - and you'll see that this bill does take steps in this regard (Part III).

    The reason I think the rest of the bill is relevant, though, is because of the significant numbers of homeless people in the UK: from the latest statistics that I could find, 48,510 applicants for homelessness were legally deemed homeless in England in 2011; 1,694 households were deemed to be 'unintentionally homeless and in priority need' in Wales over 2008; there are more official figures here, which puts the number of households classified under 'statutory homelessness' at 74,690, and the number of people who 'sleep rough' on a given night in England (snapshot survey) at 483 - the number of different people thought to 'sleep rough' in London over a year is 3017. If you look at this news article from The Independent, it notes how the Pro-Housing Alliance has called for about 500,000 new houses to be built each year for the next seven years, which shows how pressing the problem is (and which is, incidentally, a lot more than our provision, causing me to think we should probably amend that :beard:). This more recent article from The Guardian notes how homelessness had been decreasing since 2003, so the jump shown in the most recent statistics is particularly shocking. So my question is over the next fifteen or twenty years it might take to build adequate accommodation for the existing homeless, what are they going to do? (Have homeless babies, that's what.) I understand that you're eager to protect the rights of the property-owners, but this for me presents an issue with a more urgent immediacy.
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Updated: May 30, 2012
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