UN rapporteur calls for property tax on housing land

Paul Mobbs mobbsey at gn.apc.org
Thu Sep 12 16:43:10 BST 2013


UN rapporteur calls for property tax on housing land

Planning Resource, 12/9/13

The government should introduce a 'regulatory framework' to avoid land
speculation by developers and use public land to build more social
housing, according to a preliminary report by the UN's special
rapporteur on adequate housing.

Raquel Rolnik, a Brazilian professor of urbanism, yesterday published
her preliminary findings after a two week ‘mission’ to the UK to examine
housing issues. 

In her report Rolnik said the main objective of her visit was to "assess
the country’s achievements and challenges in guaranteeing the right to
adequate housing and non-discrimination in this context, in accordance
with existing international human rights standards".

The preliminary report said that the government’s changes to the
planning system have given "local level authorities expanded
responsibilities" but the "power dynamics of a particular local council
may not allow for a forceful negotiation with developers, to speed up
delivery, and this situation may last for years despite the urgent need
for additional housing stock".

The report said that "several documents and assessments acknowledge that
land with permits has increasingly become the asset in itself, rather
than an asset for the social well-being of the community".

Rolnik said it was also of concern "that there is no property tax on
land, including dormant or vacant land for years. Land value, including
in the financial circuits, has escalated in the last decades, yet it is
still mostly regarded as a private matter, hence for-profit. I would
recommend that the government sets a regulatory framework to avoid this
kind of speculation".

Similarly, the report added, "selling public land to private developers
for the best price can mean that a valuable public resource is not being
used as a means to increase the availability of housing for those who
need it, in times of housing stress. A significant part of the existing
social housing stock in UK was built on local council and other public

"In times of pressure on affordable housing, the mobilization of public
land can be an important tool, so I recommend that the government
releases public sector land only for social and affordable housing to be

Rolnik said that during her visit she had also received "multiple
testimonies on the shortage of sufficient, adequate and safe sites for
Gypsy and Traveller communities across the United Kingdom, many of whom
feel this is part of the stigma and discrimination they regularly face
from governments and society as a whole". The report said that "it is
fair to say that leaving local authorities to make their own decisions
with no accountability and national process to reconcile the Gypsy and
Traveller communities with settled communities remains a source of

Elsewhere, the report expresses concern about planning reforms in
Northern Ireland where planning powers are being decentralised from
central to local government. Rolnik said this decentralisation may cause
"increased sectarianism and discrimination".

The report also recommended that the government’s so-called bedroom tax
"be suspended immediately and be fully re-evaluated in light of the
evidence of its impacts on the right to adequate housing and general
well-being of many vulnerable individuals".

The controversial government policy means that tenants have their
housing benefit reduced by 14 per cent if they have one spare bedroom,
and 25 per cent if they have two or more spare bedrooms.

But housing minister Mark Prisk said: "The report fails to recognise the
steps we've taken to get Britain building, which have delivered over
330,000 homes and 150,000 affordable homes over the past three years.

"We're investing £19.5 billion public and private funding over this
Spending Review, and £23 billion in the three years after that, which
will lead to the fastest rate of affordable housebuilding for two

"On top of this, we're helping build a bigger, better private rented
sector through our £1 billion Build to Rent fund - efforts that would be
thwarted if we introduced more red tape - and our help for aspiring
homeowners has already supported over 25,000 households to get on the
property ladder since 2010."

Former housing minister and Tory party chairman Grant Shapps has
reportedly written to the head of the UN to complain about Rolnik’s

The preliminary report can be read at
Rolnik’s final report is due to be published in March 2014.


"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government,
nor are we for this party nor against the other but we are
for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom,
that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness,
righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with
God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
(Edward Burrough, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')

Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations
3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 5HN, England
tel./fax (+44/0)1295 261864
email - mobbsey at gn.apc.org
website - http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/index.shtml
public key - http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/mobbsey_public_key-2013-2.asc
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