What Germany can teach us about renting

Many readers will be aware that being a private sector tenant is quite normal in Germany, without the stigma it carries here. Some may also have heard of recent measures in Berlin to cap private sector rents. In due course we should see their long term impact, but looking at policy over the last 50 years should tell us something about why private renting works well now.

Continue reading What Germany can teach us about renting

A d’Hondt() Excel function

I saw a spreadsheet with some VBA macros recently to calculate numbers of seats awarded in elections conducted using the d’Hondt system, so I thought I’d have a go at a single Excel function to do the same. WordPress doesn’t allow the Excel workbooks with VBA to be uploaded, so the file which can be downloaded from this link needs to have the following code added in a module

3rd June 2020 I had a comment from Daniel Martinez pointing out a bug. Hope I have fixed this now, and also addressed the problem of ties

d’Hondt workbook – with VBA stripped

Option Explicit

Public Function dHondt(iSeatsToAllocate As Integer, rVotes, Optional lVoters As Long = 10000)

Dim dVoteTotal As Double
Dim dVote
Dim i As Integer
Dim aSeats()

Dim dVotes() As Double
Dim blnColumn As Boolean

Dim dSeatCostTrial As Double
Dim nSeatsTrial As Integer

Dim nParties As Integer

Dim iTries As Integer
Dim dUpperLimit As Double, dLowerLimit As Double

Dim blnScaled As Boolean
Dim dChange As Double

    On Error GoTo eh
    dVotes = asSingleArray(rVotes, blnColumn)
    nParties = UBound(dVotes) + 1

'The algorithm looks for a cost per seat which will allocate the number of seats available
'starting with upper and lower limits, and the first trial cost per seat the upper limit

'One or other of these limits is set to the mid point of their range, according to whether the
'number of seats allocated at the trial cost per seat is above or below the number to allocate

'Where there are ties in the number of votes, the basic d'Hondt process will not be able to
'allocate seats, so some other tie breaking process will be needed. This condtion is tested for
'by seeing if the difference between upper and lower limits is less than a single vote. For this
'to work when percentages are given, a total number of votes is needed. This is an option third
'argument to the function. By default it is 10,000

'Lower limit
    For Each dVote In dVotes
        dVoteTotal = dVoteTotal + dVote
        If dVote <> Int(dVote) Then blnScaled = True
        If dLowerLimit = 0 Then
            If dVote > 0 Then dLowerLimit = dVote
            If dVote > 0 And dVote < dLowerLimit Then dLowerLimit = dVote
        End If
    dSeatCostTrial = dVoteTotal / iSeatsToAllocate ' - always high
    dUpperLimit = dSeatCostTrial
    dLowerLimit = dLowerLimit / iSeatsToAllocate
    While nSeatsTrial <> iSeatsToAllocate
        iTries = iTries + 1
        ReDim aSeats(nParties - 1)
        nSeatsTrial = 0
        For i = 0 To nParties - 1
            aSeats(i) = Int(dVotes(i) / dSeatCostTrial)
            nSeatsTrial = nSeatsTrial + aSeats(i)
        If nSeatsTrial > iSeatsToAllocate Then ' adjust dSeatCostTrial up
            If dSeatCostTrial > dLowerLimit Then dLowerLimit = dSeatCostTrial
        ElseIf nSeatsTrial < iSeatsToAllocate Then ' adjust dSeatCostTrial down
            If dSeatCostTrial < dUpperLimit Then dUpperLimit = dSeatCostTrial
        End If

        dSeatCostTrial = (dUpperLimit + dLowerLimit) / 2
        dChange = dUpperLimit - dLowerLimit
        If blnScaled Then dChange = dChange * lVoters
        If dChange < 1 Then
            Err.Raise 1, "dHondt", "Check for tied votes"
            dSeatCostTrial = (dUpperLimit + dLowerLimit) / 2
        End If


    If blnColumn Then
        dHondt = WorksheetFunction.Transpose(aSeats)
        dHondt = aSeats
    End If
    Exit Function
    For i = 0 To nParties - 1
        aSeats(i) = Err.Description

    GoTo tidyup
End Function

Private Function asSingleArray(rVotes, blnColumn As Boolean)

Dim i As Integer
Dim aVotes
Dim dVotes() As Double

    Select Case TypeName(rVotes)
    Case "Range"
        aVotes = rVotes.Value
    Case "Array"
        aVotes = rVotes
    Case Else
        Err.Raise 1, "", ""
    End Select
    On Error Resume Next
    blnColumn = UBound(aVotes, 2) <= 1
    If Err.Number <> 0 Then  'single dim array
        ReDim dVotes(UBound(aVotes) - LBound(aVotes))
        For i = 0 To UBound(aVotes) - LBound(aVotes): dVotes(i) = aVotes(i + LBound(aVotes)): Next
    ElseIf blnColumn Then
        ReDim dVotes(UBound(aVotes) - LBound(aVotes))
        For i = 0 To UBound(aVotes) - LBound(aVotes): dVotes(i) = aVotes(i + LBound(aVotes), LBound(aVotes, 2)): Next
        ReDim dVotes(UBound(aVotes, 2) - LBound(aVotes, 2))
        For i = 0 To UBound(aVotes, 2) - LBound(aVotes, 2): dVotes(i) = aVotes(LBound(aVotes), i + LBound(aVotes, 2)): Next
    End If
    asSingleArray = dVotes
End Function

The function needs first the number of seats to allocate, and then an Excel row or column range with the votes cast, or percentages, so something like


The output is another Excel range, a row or column as the case may be, with the number of seats awarded under d’Hondt. Those curly braces are the result of the function being entered as an array formula – something to look up for those unfamiliar with these.

I’ve also written it so that it can be used more simply in VBA with just a single dimension array as the second argument.

Copyright? I’m really not too bothered, and I’m sure plenty of other people have done something like this, but yes, acknowledgement is appreciated.

Tim Lund

23rd April, 2019

Signage for volunteer initiatives


This is an argument for a scalable initiative to support volunteers who want to make their neighbourhoods look better. In summary, there should be some high quality, consistent but adaptable branding, to identify volunteer initiatives, and support communications with and about them. The initiative would be owned by a professional managed organisation, ideally operating at a national level.  More details below in Recommendations Continue reading Signage for volunteer initiatives

“Wutbürger” – The German for NIMBY

Originally posted in the Sydenham Town Forum, 30 June, 2013

Last week’s uncharacteristic radio silence was thanks to cycling round Normandy. With my rusting French revived, I came across an interesting article in Le Monde on the way back, dealing with a report into the sorts of people who in 2010 gave German this new ‘word of the year’, and is now in official dictionaries. I know virtually no German, so I’ll have to go via the French to give the literal meaning in English as “angry citizens”, but on reading the article, it becomes clear the cultural meaning is NIMBY. For these 


are not the young of the various Occupy movements and protesters in Turkey, Egypt or Brazil, but “they are for the main part people without children, working part time, with good school backgrounds, teachers and above all, those approaching retirement and the retired … More than a half say they are non religious, and a large majority say they don’t think Germany is a real democracy”

So – what to they do? Well, stop the redevelopment of the area round a station in Stuttgart, limit night flights in Frankfurt, and a new runway at Munich, stop proposed long term storage for nuclear waste by chaining themselves to railway lines, stop the electrification of the Munich-Zurich train line, get in the way of the high tension cables needed to bring electricity from wind farms in the north to the south, even get in the way of creating a national park in the north of the Black Forest.

Seems to me, these are just Germany’s Baby Boomer “usual suspects”, with too much time on their hands, and used to being able to get their own way, and for whom a real democracy is a system which delivers whatever they want.

A former bond analyst thinks again about house prices

I was going to title this blog ‘house prices, supply, rents, incomes and interest rates‘, but then wondered if any would be readers would still be awake.

The background is the discussion which has been going on for a while about whether UK house prices so high because of a lack of supply, but it also leads me to some thoughts about the linguistics of ‘rent’

Continue reading A former bond analyst thinks again about house prices

We need more evidence on tenure and occupancy

It is sometimes argued that policy changes which affect landlords can have no effect on the balance of supply and demand for tenants because the properties which may move between being rented and owner occupation will still exist, and will be occupied all the same.  See for example these recent tweets Continue reading We need more evidence on tenure and occupancy

Flooding, engineering, planning and politics

Reposted from my local Forum, 16 Jan, 2014, with a more helpful title, and some editing.  It rambles a bit, but putting here now because it touches on various questions which arose yesterday (July 25, 2018) when I attended a consultation event on ‘De-risking’ growth in the Cambridge Milton Keynes Oxford arc. 

I’m thinking about it now as much as raising the general problem of why landowners and other interested parties fail to co-operate.

The trigger here is this BBC interview with a member of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) as reported here:

Back-to-nature flood schemes need ‘government leadership’

Continue reading Flooding, engineering, planning and politics

South Anywhere County Development Corporation / Equity for land rights funding

Rather than purchase land for some monetary amount, compulsorily or otherwise, and load local authorities / development corporations with debt, a South Anywhere County Development Corporation (SACDC) would issue equity to landowners whose land was affected by the JSP, in exchange for rights SACDC acquired over the land.  Continue reading South Anywhere County Development Corporation / Equity for land rights funding

Elder Stubbs and Existing Use Value

“Elder Stubbs” is an allotment site in East Oxford owned by a charity rather than the local authority.  Something of its history can be found on its website here, but this skips the period in the 1990s when the charity found itself at loggerheads with Oxford City Council.  For this I am grateful for the privately printed notes on the history of Elder Stubbs, written by John Purves, formerly Chair of the Elder Stubbs Trustees. Continue reading Elder Stubbs and Existing Use Value