Should Britain Scrap its Green Belts to Build Houses?

Housing construction hasn't kept up with Britain's robust population growth. The Economist floats several ideas for spurring development: relax permissions for developing greenfields, incentivize building on brownfields, and tax the value of land.
January 11, 2014, 1pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"Driven by a baby-boom, immigration and longer lives, Britain’s population is growing by around 0.8% per year, faster than in most rich countries. Foreign wealth, meantime, is pouring into London," notes The Economist. "If supply were rising fast too, increasing demand would not matter; but it is not. Though some 221,000 additional households are formed in England annually, just 108,000 homes were built in the year to September 2013."

The Economist explores several potential solutions to help spur housing construction. Perhaps most controversially, they call for reconsidering the country's urban growth boundaries. "The green belts that stop development around big cities should go, or at least be greatly weakened. They increase journey times without adding to human happiness. London’s, in particular, mostly protects scrubby agricultural fields and pony paddocks. Parts would be prettier with housing on."

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Published on Friday, January 10, 2014 in The Economist
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