On Cross Question this week, one of the panel came up with what I thought was a very interesting idea in response to the difficulties young people are finding in getting on the housing ladder.
Lance Forman is MD of H Forman & Sons, a high end smoked salmon supplier based right by the Olympic Stadium at Stratford. He suggested to the Housing Secretary, James Brokenshire - his fellow panellist - that employers could offer loans to employees in order to help them meet the deposit and get on the property ladder.
He explained that one of his employees had approached him and said she couldn’t afford the deposit on a flat and asked if he would lend her the money. He did so, without charging any interest. He said that as a consequence has has a very happy, committed and loyal employee. He pointed out that lots of businesses have piles of cash which they don’t know what to do with. He suggested that any such loan should not be treated by HMRC as a benefit in kind, and the government should adopt this idea.
No one is suggesting that this is a solution to the housing crisis and the difficulties people face in London and the South East of amassing a deposit, but surely it might form part of the solution. But critics were quick to jump on Lance’s idea. Here’s Open Democracy economist Laurie Macfarlane…
Sad to see this idea from @LanceForman being taken seriously. First time buyers are already forced to become hugely indebted to banks. The last thing they need is more debt from their employer.— Laurie Macfarlane (@L__Macfarlane) November 1, 2018
We need to reverse the financialisation of housing, not put it on steroids @IainDale pic.twitter.com/5AfrnFvcx8
It’s not about whether employers are good or bad. It’s about whether we want to address the root causes of the housing crisis, or simply add fuel to the fire. Your idea does the latter. Certain individuals may benefit, but the overall effect will be to make the crisis worse— Laurie Macfarlane (@L__Macfarlane) November 1, 2018
I don’t agree with Laurie when he compares this to ‘Help to Buy’. There are huge benefits to be had from this and I don’t see it as causing house price inflation. The broad left thing all efforts need to be directed towards those who need social housing, whereas I think that we need a whole series of measures to tackle the difficulties people are finding at all levels.