Will Leyland, 21 October 2020
It appears that it’s too much to ask the government to lay off bringing in computer algorithms to replace human decision makers when coming up with policies that affect hundreds of thousands.
Given the recent exams fiasco, it’s surprising that the government seem keen to press on with this kind of AI decision making when it’s already had such incredibly poor results in other areas.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for these kinds of computer generated programmes and predictions, however, it’s probably advisable to have experienced people cast their eyes over them to look at glaring issues that may cause unforeseen problems down the line.
One of the more pressing issues for this current government, should it wish to be re-elected in a few years’ time, is housing and its availability to younger voters.
Boris Johnson has already indicated that he’s willing to think outside the box to provide young home buyers the means to get on to the ladder with mortgage assistance and government programmes to help them get a deposit together, but it’s worth reminding him that there is a pretty sizeable chunk that rent and that are happy enough doing so for now.
The issue isn’t so much with affordability per se (although this also needs to be considered), it’s with availability, and certainly in areas of popularity.
This issue was covered fairly extensively in Wired, who explained “Created by the Ministry of Housing, the algorithm tries to perfectly allocate an annual house building target to each region by factoring in demand, population growth and local affordability.
But according to analysis from planning consultants Litchfields it is already producing some pretty odd results. Rural Tonbridge in Kent, for example, is being told to build 1,440 homes annually – enough to grow its population by just under a tenth in size every year.
If this new algorithm backfired, it could have a big impact on the economy and regional inequality and worsen an already critical shortage of affordable homes.”
It raises pretty reasonable doubts that the government are able to get to grips with a supply of affordable homes with a growing demand.
So far, it’s fair to say that many city regions and larger towns have been doing reasonably well of their own accord. As covered by other outlets, many high streets are now being converted into residential housing, and this is now providing great supply to renters and buyers too.
Where the government could provide much better assistance is to speed up planning permission and provide better tax breaks and incentives for private developers to convert more disused properties into residential stock.
Many agents and advisors are seeing a huge surge in demand since the lifting of lockdown restrictions, and it’s not surprising given the circumstances of people having their housing needs at the forefront of their minds at the moment.
Algorithms won’t help a thriving industry, and the government would be better advised to help young buyers and renters with more incentives for private development.
Will Leyland, 21 October 2020