Right-to-Move-Out, not Right-to-Move

ConservativeHome's ToryDiary reports on a Right-to-Move policy to be announced tomorrow by Grant Shapps. Under this scheme, "good social tenants can demand that their social landlord sell their current property and use the proceeds, minus transaction costs, to buy another property of their choice – anywhere in England.  The new home will remain a state-owned property but will aid mobility."

The policy was developed by Tim Leunig (of the LSE) for Policy Exchange. Tim has some interesting ideas, but he is stronger on transport (which I understand is his speciality) than housing and planning issues. It was Tim, for example, who was partially responsible for the Policy Exchange paper suggesting that we should stop resisting London's economic gravitational force, allowing some northern cities to die and developing more cities in the south (as though it is the job of a central-planning office to decide this sort of movement). And it was Tim who came up with the scheme to deliver cheap social-housing by getting landholders to sell land cheap to councils who would then grant themselves planning permission and sell the land to developers at a large profit.

This latest idea exceeds Tim's usual daftness when he ventures away from transport. As I posted in the comments at ToryDiary:

Right-to-buy was about moving people from the public sector to the private sector.

Right-to-move is about keeping people in the public sector, but trying to pretend that the public sector can be made to offer similar flexibility and freedoms to the market.

I'd rather social-housing was as inflexible as possible, to give people the incentives to get out of it. It should be a minimal safety-net, not a public service.

Better still, change the welfare system to a Basic Income (BI) including an allowance for minimal rent, place an obligation on councils to provide housing to minimal standards at costs linked to the BI to people falling into tightly-controlled eligibility criteria (with costs recovered from local taxation), and leave it to people and markets to choose what to do about their accommodation.

Typical Cameroon/Policy Exchange idea. It has little in common, other than the name, with Right-to-buy. Tim, you're much better at transport; I'd stick to that, if I were you.



You are completely right. This is more tory socialism

Like your blog, by the way. I've added it to the blogroll.

Agreed, it is an insane plan. Any sensible welfare has to be based on BI.

But you do Tim L's previous report and injustice. He does not want to be a central planner, what he said was liberalise planning laws a bit and let people live where they want. If there is a population shift as a result of this, then so be it, was his view (it's the inevitable result of letting people move to where they want).

It was a bit more than liberalising planning laws. The following are from the Executive Summary of the Cities Unlimited report:

There is no realistic prospect that our regeneration towns and cities can converge with London and the South East. There is, however, a very real prospect of encouraging significant numbers of people to move from those towns to London and the South East.

We should go further [than liberalisation of land use in London and the South East]. No one likes urban sprawl per se, but suburbs offer a high quality of life to those who live in them and create the economic “bulk” that makes cities both prosperous and vibrant. Increasing the size of London so that it takes an extra minute’s journey to reach the edge of town would make room for another million people, increasing their opportunities. 

We also know that cities based on highly skilled workers are the most dynamic. Oxford and Cambridge are unambiguously Britain’s leading research universities outside London and both are well located economically. We should consider expanding both dramatically, just as Liverpool and Manchester expanded in the 19th century 

We propose that the Government should roll up current regeneration funding streams and allocate the money to local authorities according to a simple formula based on the inverse of their average income levels. Central funding would be available for a handful of exceptional circumstances, such as decontaminating highly polluted land. 

We propose that, wherever possible, we should stop demolishing properties. Instead, the Government should buy up the cheapest houses on the open market and give them to the next door neighbour in exchange for an equity stake in the expanded property. 

There's quite a lot of planning, or incentivising to an outcome rather than according to equitable principles, in that. In fact, that latter approach seems to be Tim's modus operandi. He works out what he thinks ought to happen, and then works out what market mechanisms could make it happen. This, of course, assumes that he is a better calculator of efficient outcomes than markets with rationally internalized externalities.

He should have called for a planning system that took better account of local externalities and provided more balanced incentives reflecting both the benefit as well as the social costs of development, and then left it at that. At the moment, because only the negative aspects are reflected in councillors' incentives, it is a no-brainer usually to say no. If there were a mechanism for balancing a benefit to the community against the subjective social costs, planning decisions would be more measured. My suggestion is that the rateable value (or council-tax band, for as long as we have to live with that duff system) should be negotiated as part of the planning process.

I will do likewise. I wasnt quite sure where I stood on this but your comments on toryboyblog immediately made obvious sense.

Have given it a bit more thought and arrived at the conclusion that the tories shouldnt even support social housing.