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Why should some people make money out of the fact others have nowhere to live?

THE pitiful social housing green paper from the Tories underlines just how deep the rot in our society has spread. 

Not only does it fail to offer anything to tackle the immediate housing crisis, but it also fails to deal with any of the root causes and is based, fundamentally, on the very market philosophy that created this situation in the first place.

So, there is no new money. Nothing. Not a jot. 

In a typical ministerial sleight-of-hand, half of the money to eradicate rough sleeping is already allocated for the purpose and half will be reallocated from elsewhere. 

Even if it were new money, it would be totally inadequate to the task. With over a million people in need of new housing, less than £100 each simply isn’t going to cut it.

You’d think this would be the worst bit of the paper, the fact that it won’t achieve anything, but arguably (and worryingly) it isn’t.

There is the attempt to “rebalance the relationship between tenants and landlords” through the introduction of league tables. 

This is the wrong answer to the wrong question. 

The imbalance in the relationship between private landlords and their tenants is simple — one is the owner of shelter, a basic requirement for human survival, the other is in need of that basic requirement and can therefore be made to pay for it. 

The only way to “rebalance” this relationship is to change it — by taking surplus housing from the hands of those who have too much and giving it to those who need it.

In the meantime, what we need is much tighter regulation of private landlords and rent controls to ensure the adequate supply of affordable housing, not “league tables.” 

You only have to look at the impact in education to see that “choice” policies, of which league tables form a key part, are counterproductive in providing for basic social need. 

In contrast, rent controls and financial regulation could progressively remove the financial incentive to own more than one home, as part of transition to an end to private rental. 

Why should some people make money out of the fact others have nowhere to live?

And then we have the proposals to move even more social housing tenants into “home ownership” by allowing them to buy 1 per cent of their home each year (presumably so that in 100 years they can celebrate the wonderful transformation home ownership has on their lives). 

This taps deeply into one of the worst aspects of the current approach to housing in this country — the obsession with so-called “home ownership.”

The reality of “home ownership” is known by anyone with a mortgage. In order to keep a roof over your head, an ever-increasing proportion of your wages are given directly to the bank which in reality owns the property you live in.

Continuing to push people out of social housing into this “ownership” model, while refusing to remove the cap on local authority borrowing, which effectively restricts the building of new council houses, will contribute to deepening the housing crisis, not solving it.

Rather than focusing on new ways to sell off socially owned housing, the government should be investing in a massive house-building programme. 

We should be increasing the stock of socially owned housing and redrawing the rules on affordable rents, to make them truly affordable to working people. 

At the same time, rather than the chimera of home ownership, we should be focusing on giving tenants a genuine voice in, and control over, the decisions that affect them, making councils and other social landlords accountable to the people they exist to serve.

 

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