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New Statesman - Property scandal

"There is a myth in this country," says Kevin Cahill, author of the seminal Who Owns Britain (Canongate, 2001), "that land is scarce. It is not scarce. There is 41 million acres out there, about one-third of it so uneconomic that it has to be subsidised, hidden behind nothing but a myth. The problem is that there is simply not enough land coming on to the market for housing, which puts fierce pressure on the little land that is available, and thus dramatically inflates its price."

The hereditary landowners have been adept at protecting their interests - making plentiful land look scarce, and being paid from the public purse to keep it that way. The Land Act 1925 requires all land transactions in England and Wales to be registered. Registration is necessary only once a sale has been made; as such, many of the large estates, where ownership passes on through generations of the same family, have not been registered; to date, roughly 35 per cent of land in England and Wales remains unregistered. The Land Act was never debated in the Commons. Responsibility for debate was abdicated to the House of Lords, where the law was passed without discussion.

One of the reasons why landowners are so resistant to change, and indeed to registering just how much land they own, is that they receive huge subsidies, funded by British taxpayers through the European Union, simply for owning designated agricultural land that is frequently unproductive. (See the table on the next page.) Subsidy allows landowners to retain very expensive assets, while ensuring that not enough land reaches the market.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue May 31st, 2011 at 07:54:35 PM EST

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