Urban housing prices are skyrocketing in London and around the globe. What’s behind the crisis and how do we fix it? In this episode of the Governance Podcast, John Myers of London YIMBY joins Sam DeCanio of King’s College London for a discussion about the critical policy response we need to reduce costs and reinvigorate our cities.

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The Guest

John Myers is the Co-Founder of London YIMBY and YIMBY Alliance, grassroots campaigns to end the housing crisis with the support of local people.

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0:39: What is the London housing crisis and how bad is it?

2:39: Homes have not become more technologically different than they were 100 years ago—it’s bricks, mortar, the tech is the same. And at the same time, wages in London have been going up. Yet the housing situation is getting worse given both of these conditions. Why aren’t markets responding to these signals?

4:03: When you’re saying we’re not planning enough housing, these are political plans or market actors?

4:52: Is this problem especially acute in London relative to other cities?

5:28: London is a centre of productive capacity and we’re essentially disincentivising people from moving here by making them face such commutes.

6:44: Do these problems have distributional effects as well? I imagine there would be certain economic groups that would be disproportionally harmed.

9:45: I suppose the natural question arises, how has this happened? Unlike these prior societies that you’ve mentioned, the UK is a democracy, we have elected officials that can make decisions that can influence the society. If the effects of the crisis are to replicate authoritarian political systems and these premodern societies, why hasn’t the political system responded to the crisis in a way that limits these distributional inequalities?

11:48: 2/3rds of the voters are homeowners. I would also still think there are considerable numbers of voters that don’t own homes that are being harmed. Why aren’t they mobilising?

14:40: You mentioned that people are heavily invested in their homes. What would happen if the housing crisis were solved and the result of that was the construction of a large number of houses that led to prices beginning to fall in areas like London?

17:51: Why isn’t that happening? Why aren’t we adding more urban density into London and building more vertically?

20:40: How would you respond to someone who was concerned that extra construction would alter the historical character of their neighborhood?

24:17: So if the companies that are constructing new homes are not as responsive to individual purchasers as before, who are they responsive to?

25:42: I wanted to ask you about foreign ownership of homes in London. One of the frequent explanations you hear for the crisis is that there are extremely wealthy global elites purchasing homes, often masked by limited liability corporations. To what extent is the crisis influenced by foreign property ownership?

28:33: You mentioned the estimates– around 13 percent of new London properties are owned by foreign purchasers, up to 50 percent in Central London.

32:06: Tell us a little bit about the role the green belt is playing in the London housing crisis.

36:09: Why couldn’t someone respond to this and say this is just the tradeoff for protecting nature? Aren’t there good reasons for preventing London from expanding beyond the current boundaries?

42:58: Given that there are all these problems, are there any simple solutions available to mitigate the crisis?

47:05: Which political actors do you think would be most suited to institute this kind of change? Would the Mayor have an easier time of it?

49:20: So it would actually be incredibly helpful if you could have a neighborhood do this, demonstrate that if you allow these smaller territorial units to have more control over housing permissions and planning, this actually could generate benefits?