An Oxford student has faced criticism after saying the answer to the housing crisis is to build more slums.
Libertarian think-tank, the Adam Smith Institute, has defended the student’s proposals for favela-style homes after he was sent death threats on social media.
In a blog on the Adam Smith Institute’s website, Theo Clifford, a Philosophy, Politics and Economics student at Merton College, Oxford, suggested abolishing safety regulations to introduce slums in the UK for those who cannot afford a home.
Clifford, who describes himself as a “recovering Lib Dem” who hopes to become a “yuppie”, wrote: “Sweeping deregulation is the only way to provide Britain with the slums it is crying out for.”
Clifford won the Institute’s Young Writer on Liberty competition in the 18-21 age group.
He continued: “Britain has a sore lack of property slums. Government regulations designed to clamp down on cowboy landlords restrict people’s ability to choose the kind of accommodation in which they want to live.”
Clifford argues that communal living is appealing to young people, as he too is struggling to get onto the property ladder.
Britain Needs More Slums, Says Oxford Student
He added: “Housing should cater to a wide array of preferences. Some people might not feel like they need a bedroom space as large as the state expects, while others might not mind sharing a bathroom with another family if it means lower rents.”
He claimed that over-regulation is the cause of the housing crisis: “The market desperately wants to provide houses people can live in at prices they can afford – but in the eyes of local authorities, these houses are too small, or too tall, or the ceilings are too low, or the windows not energy efficient enough.”
After the piece was posted online, Clifford received a stream of online abuse. One critic tweeted Clifford, calling him a “wet behind the ears libertarian who’s never laid in bed listening to rats scuttling about his kitchen.”1
Another exclaimed: “’Britain needs more assassinations of @Theo_Clifford’ is about as offensive as this blog.”1
A housing law solicitor told Clifford he is “but a child & yet to learn to distinguish immediate self interest from general social benefit.”1
Clifford replied to one opponent: “A cramped flat you can afford is better than the sprawling detached house you can’t.”
He then asked: “Wonder if my proposal for a #NationalNetflix is going to get me as many death threats as yesterday’s housing essay.”
However, he was defended by the Institute’s Deputy Director, Sam Bowman, who said: “People should attack us, not him. We can take it. Theo is making the point that disadvantaged people who are price-sensitive might prefer an energy efficient house or one with a small bedroom than none at all.”
Bowman continued: “The word slum is quite emotive. But it is what people would call these dwellings if they were allowed. Theo is asking people to think past what the word slum means to us and ask if our minimum building standards are too restrictive?”
Bowman described Clifford as “an extremely smart, reasonable and pleasant chap” who “is destined for great things.”1
Clifford did not receive support from the South East London branch of anti-austerity group, the People’s Assembly, which tweeted: “No, Theo, the country doesn’t need more slums, but yes maybe less building regulation, something rad needed to kickstart supply.”1
The Adam Smith Institute helped with the intellectual foundation of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative governments and promotes free market thinking.
Clifford has previous blogged on the Liberal Democrat Voice website, where he called for deregulation of Sunday trading laws – now Government policy – and defined Lib Dem economic policy as a “belief in the strength of the free market to provide long-run economic growth.”1