Housing disassociations

Andrew Oswald ("Buy your home and kill a job", 28 June) sets out the argument that home-ownership is the cause of unemployment. He advocates private renting.

There is a confusion in his argument between association and explanation and a failure to disaggregate what is clearly a complex and varied relationship. He quotes countries where there is high home-ownership and high unemployment and vice versa. Yet other examples might include the UK and Ireland, both of which have relatively high home-ownership rates and much lower unemployment than the Spanish example he cites, while Germany has a low home-ownership rate and relatively high unemployment.

Within England, lower home-ownership regions, such as London, also have higher unemployment than, for example, the South-west, where home-ownership is much higher. The focus on home- ownership is misplaced, though it is important that we seek to eradicate any frictions that may exist between the housing system (whatever the tenure) and the labour market. In that light, the government does have to think seriously about stamp duty, which increasingly looks like a tax on mobility.

Peter Williams
Deputy director general
Council of Mortgage Lenders

This article first appeared in the 05 July 1999 issue of the New Statesman, He makes us nice enough for export