The United Kingdom is in a unique position. It actually knows the truth about what happens when housing developers are handed their Holy Grail — the unrestricted right to build what they want where they want in the way they want. Rules, regulations, by-laws and zoning requirements? All abolished.
According to ‘Economics 101,’ the free market will ensure that in such a freewheeling environment, developers will at last be capable of responding to the needs of society, therefore able to build not only what everyone needs, but what everyone wants.
Is that what actually happens? The UK knows the answer. It’s a resounding ‘no!’
How did the the UK come by this valuable information? By deciding to stimulate developer interest in ‘brownfields’ — old industrial sites that, once cleaned up, offer useful housing potential. Perhaps developers could be enticed to remediate these sites — make them safe for habitation — in exchange for giving developers a pretty much unrestricted free hand to build what they want.
For those interested in exploring the scope of this developer adventureland together with some of its emerging problems, affordablehousingaction.org not long ago provided the following post: Permitted Development Rights: Housing Stumbles As Red Tape Crumbles
This is a worthy subject of interest for any country that is continually bombarded with developer propaganda pressing to abolish development restrictions. It happens everywhere — an endless drumbeat of praise for deregulation based on the notion that unregulated ‘laws’ of supply and demand will best satisfy society’s needs.
The UK is actively discovering the inherent weakness in this simple — and simple-minded — theory. And are they sensibly acting to curb their initial enthusiasm, based on rapidly accumulating evidence?
Of course not! Why let crass experience mess with a wobbly fantasy of economic and political achievement?
Read the latest in The Guardian: Our slum future: the planning shakeup set to blight English housing