UK Public Housing? PPP Fails. Let’s Try PCP Based On CLTs

The brick facade of semi-detached new houses
Greenheys housing development under construction in Moss Side, Manchester, UK photo by Alex Pepperhill is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
A Manchester UK, mixed income housing development — the face of Public Private Partnership failure. Of 3,200 houses recently built, only 16 have been some flavour of affordable.

Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), given free rein for several decades, now clearly define how they can serve a particular set of needs — where the term “Public” stands for the service of government interests, and “Private” stands for the service of business interests. Neither of these interests necessarily serve the interests of the larger community or society. This is essentially true when it comes to providing shelter for all, in particular for a large and rapidly growing number of low- and no- income citizens.

PPPs are quite capable of providing truly affordable housing, but only as a small, fixed proportion of a perceived need of housing for wealthier citizens. Any PPP business model must assume that the need for truly affordable housing is a form of social constant: when x citizens require (and can afford to pay for) more expensive housing, then some fraction — say 0.05x — will require socially assisted housing.

This thinking assumes for every 100 middle class houses built, some much smaller fraction, say 5 or 6, will need to be government supported social housing. (Recent projects have often seen fractions far lower that this.)

Alas, no such real world formula links construction of the housing needed to shelter the middle classes to the percentage presently needed to shelter the lower classes. That is particularly true in the United Kingdom, where the destruction of aging social housing, as well as its wholesale sell-off under the Right To Buy scheme, today demands far more social rent housing that can piggy back on any profitable PPP project.

Is there any solution to this PPP needle stuck in the ever-recycled, taxpayer supported, housing construction go-round that keeps political and business classes fat and happy, but doesn’t do the necessary job for community or society?

What about a Public Common Partnership? A PCP can step around the entirely understandable profit-oriented requirements so essential to a free market private partner in a PPP.

What might a PCP be? Read an article by University of Liverpool’s Matthew Thompson, who looks to a future of Community Land Trusts (CLTs) to solve the UK’s need for truly affordable housing. Read more in The Conversation: Public housing needs radical reform: here’s how

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