Housing Crisis: James O'Brien Outlines The UK's "Bonkers" Predicament

27 April 2017, 12:42 | Updated: 27 April 2017, 18:39

James O'Brien is baffled by the housing crisis, and in this clip he outlines just some of the "crazy" aspects which leave him confused.

Labour has released research showing Labour-run councils have built, on average, about 900 more homes than their Conservative counterparts. 

The party is to pledge to build 500,000 new homes, half of them for council rent, if they were elected into government. 

In this clip James O'Brien asks whether this could be the solution to the "crazy" UK housing crisis. 

He said: "600,000 empty homes, we learned last week, 200,000 in England, but the national figure many people told me who rang in was 600,000 for empty homes, we know that an awful lot of empty properties are being held by foreign funds, and foreign investors. 

"I'll never forget the caller who told us that he was taking a minibus full of Chinese, middle class Chinese people, not massive property investors, around Cricklewood, I think it was. Somewhere not immediately glamorous, let us say, looking at new builds. 

"They were buying off-plan, and they weren't even bothering to move tenants in, I know this is a bit of a stuck record, but I think it's an important one, they weren't even bothering to move tenants into these properties because the return they were getting off, you know, up around the ten percent a year mark at the time, was much much higher than they'd get even on the FTSE 100, or investing in gold bullion.  

"A British property market, particularly in London, although it's spreading, had become so bonkers, it's the only word I can think of, granted it's not a very technical term, but it had become so bonkers, that foreign investors with a few £100,000 to spare, would be better off sticking it into a property in London and not bothering to rent it out, just sitting back and watching its value go up, than they would investing it in almost anything else.  

"That's crazy. That to me is the big answer to the housing problem, just don't let people do that. Have some sort of penalty in place. But as we've discovered in the past, that would involve going after the Duchy of Cornwall, the Duke of Westminster and Her Majesty the Queen, which I don't think is going to happen under the current or any soon to be established government.  

"So you're left with this question of why they don't build more?  That's the first question I want you to answer. It would be so popular, wouldn't it? For any, I mean Tony Blair could have done it. 

"We haven't, we haven't - I think the government in recent history that built the most houses was Harold Wilson.  Since Harold Wilson's premiership, successive governments, both Conservative and Labour, have failed to build as many houses as Harold Wilson did during his premiership.  

"The population in each of those years has been going up, so it's, from the outside looking in, to my amateurish eyes, it's incomprehensible.  

"That as the population has grown since the 1960s, the government-led house-building projects, or not even government, this is the total number of houses that get built in the country, it's been fewer than were built during Harold Wilson's Premiership?  

"I don't understand that. I genuinely don't understand that. How can that be? How can we be living in a country where, every year the population goes up, but the number of houses being built has been going down every year, pretty much, since the 60s.  

"I like this conversation, because we can park party politics, can't we?  It didn't happen under Labour, it didn't happen under the Conservatives, it didn't happen under either. We didn't build enough houses. We are not building enough houses."