Recent studies have shown that a tiny elite controls more than 50% of the land in England. These parasites are lining their pockets with rents from the rest of us.
In his soon-to-be-released book, Who Owns England?, Guy Shrubsole reveals that around 25,000 landowners own half of all land in England. That’s 0.04% of the country’s population!
These landowners are largely drawn from the old ranks of the aristocracy and the owners of major corporations. Some of the people with the biggest holdings include the Queen, the Duke of Bedford, billionaire James Dyson, and the water company United Utilities.
An astonishing 30% of all land in England is owned by the old families of the aristocracy, and has largely been unchanged for centuries. Shrubsole argues that this figure may actually be much higher, since 17% of the land is unaccounted for. A further 18% is owned by companies, often as a way of hiding who the real owners are. Another 17% is owned directly by “oligarchs and bankers”.
In contrast, only 5% of the land is owned by 10 million homeowners. Many millions more – the overwhelming majority – do not own any land at all.
This is clearly indicative of a broken system that favours an elite few who inherit incredible wealth, at the expense of everyone else. The result is millions having to spend more than half of their income on rent, leaving many unable to afford even the most basic of necessities.
This is even worse considering that UK homelessness is at an all-time high. Homelessness charity Shelter estimates that there were 320,000 people sleeping rough, or living in hostels or temporary accommodation in 2018.
Britain has been stuck in a housing crisis for years now. The lack of affordable housing is forcing people to privately rent expensive, overcrowded homes, or, worse, is pushing people into homelessness.
These large landowners are simply parasites. Doing no work themselves, they suck the wealth out of workers by charging them astronomically high rents in order to further line their already-bursting pockets. More people are being pushed into abject poverty as a result of ruthless Tory austerity and the crisis of capitalism. This cannot go on.
The solution is to nationalise these big estates and landholdings so that they can be put to social use. This should go hand-in-hand with, and facilitate, a large-scale public programme to build new council houses. Only in this way can we solve the debilitating housing crisis and ensure that everyone has a secure place to live.
This would be just one step on the road to creating a fairer and more equal society for all of us – one that does not put exploitative landowners ahead of the rest of us, the working class.