For over a hundred years there had been no new houses in our village. Most of it was built in the first two decades of the nineteenth century by the family that has owned the estate since shortly after the Conquest.
Then, during the last two years, developers have built six new houses - three on a plot of land carved from a field and three from some redundant farm buildings. To date they all stand empty, unsold and unsellable because the developer paid too much for the land and can't get out with a profit unless he sells them for about twice what they are currently worth.
I suspect this is replicated all over the country and if I am right, it seems a dreadful waste to build houses that nobody can afford to live in. And whatever the government says its going to do to stimulate the market, who in his right mind would lend or borrow money to buy something that might never again in the buyer's lifetime be worth what he paid for it.
I guess this must be an example of "toxic debt" that we're told the banks are holding and the taxpayer is going to take over, according to Alistair Darling on Radio 4 this morning. Nobody knows how much the bank will lose on the loan until there is a final reckoning.
But the developer was a chancer. It was clear to most of the villagers that he had paid too much for the land. His only hope of profit was for the housing market to continue its insane inflation. And the bank was stupid to lend him the money. He might have profited from this last throw of the dice, but he didn't and he lost.
Across the road from three of these unsaleable houses (which incidentally blight her modest property by overshadowing it) lives an old lady of 89. She lives off what she and her late husband and their families prudently saved over the last hundred years. For the first time in her life she finds that she can't live on the income from her investments and is spending capital to survive. If she lives another ten years and things don't get any better she will have nothing left.
Where is the morality in this?