Get Your Facts Straight: Land Stats Everyone Should Know

Facts

  • 69% of land in the UK is owned by 0.6% of the population.
  • UK housing is concentrated on 5% of the country’s land mass.
  • Only 64% of people have a small stake in the 5% of land on which our housing is built.
  • Home and land ownership is in decline.
  • 1/3 of British land is still owned by aristocrats.
  • The value of ‘dwellings’ (homes and the land underneath them) has increased by four times (or 400%) between 1995 and 2015, from £1.2 trillion to £5.5 trillion.
  • The property wealth of the top 10% of households is nearly 5 times greater than the wealth of the bottom half of all households combined.
  • Landlords own almost 40% of all former council houses with the government’s ‘right-to-buy’ scheme.
  • The annual amount of overseas investment in the UK housing market has rise from around £6bn per year a decade ago to £32bn by 2014.
  • 74% of house price increases between 1950 and 2012 in the UK can be explained by rising land prices with the remainder attributable to increases in construction costs.
  • Land often increases in value due to public investment in infrastructure, such as roads, public transport, housing, etc. It has been estimated that the extension of the Jubilee Line of the London Underground which opened in 1999 increased local residential land values within 1000 yards of each of the stations by £13 billion (Riley, 2001). As a result, such publically funded infrastructure projects almost always involve a substantial transfer of wealth from a large number of taxpayers to a small number of land owners – a classic case of economic rent.

Sources:

Who really owns Britain?, Country Life, November 2010.

Modern Land Reform, New Economics Foundation, publication forthcoming.

Who Owns Britain, Kevin Cahill, 2001.

Falling down the Land Debate Rabbit Hole

Once you find out about the way land is controlled you can’t believe there is so little debate about it. Land for what? is a chance to get more people engaged, says Tom Kenny.

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Until a few years ago I didn’t really think about land much. Of course I was concerned about the housing crisis, the damage being done to the environment by industrial land management, gentrification, inequality and so on. But we rarely talk how these issues are all dependent on the way we use and govern land as a society.

When I did get interested, I quickly bounded down the rabbit hole. The more I learned, the more incredulous I got that the status quo is so rarely challenged, or even discussed. You keep having to pinch yourself….

“Let me get this straight – we pay landowners for owning land, sometimes even for managing it badly and destroying environmental assets!?”

“Wait a second, you’re saying that one third of our land is still in the hands of the aristocracy!?”

“So landowners make huge untaxed windfall gains when there is public investment in infrastructure near them? That doesn’t sound right…”

And when you get into it, It turns out a lot of people have been through this journey. We’ve had loads of interest since we started to talk about Land for What?. Interest from other people who have learned about the more absurd parts of the status quo, and are hungry to challenge it.

Yet it is still far from being a mainstream issue. Even where people are firmly entrenched in land-based struggles like housing activism they may not consider the importance of land to these struggles. Whilst it’s easy to fall down the land debate rabbit hole, most people seem not to notice it at all.

In the past, some discussions about ‘land reform’ have been alienating to outsiders (even the term is a turn-off for some). I think some people can get a bit lost down the rabbit hole, fixating on one of the particular paths. Planning policy. Land value taxation. Community Land Trusts. Yes, these things are important, but debates over their intricacies are rarely exciting for newcomers. Moreover, the core issues are much more basic, and should resound with most people in our society.

For me, Land for What? is about pulling many more people down the rabbit hole. It’s about spreading information about the nature of the problem, always relating it to the things people care about, and exploring common ground for solutions. It’s about inspiring other people to continue these discussions in their own communities.

When ideas about Land for What? were first gestating, some of us attended a talk by Scottish land rights campaigner (and now MSP) Andy Wightman. He said that a key step in the land reform debate in Scotland was when people developed ‘land literacy’, and the land debate was added to the list of topics people might discuss in the pub. Sounds like a good goal to me.

Tom is from Shared Assets, a think and do tank that supports people managing land for the common good. Follow @tomekenny and @shared_assets on Twitter.

The great myth of urban Britain

This BBC article has some useful facts and figures from recent comprehensive national studies about how much of the country is built on.

A surprisingly low figure which could be used to challenge the idea that we don’t have enough space in this country to house everyone adequately.

If I have read the article right, it states that 80% of us live on 2% of the land and that only 20% of ‘urban’ land is actually built on!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18623096