Tag Archives: social housing

Housing Day : what Suffolk needs

Today is #HousingDay.

Do you know people desperate for to find or afford somewhere to live?   In this county – with new built estates rising everywhere – I know plenty.

The answer? Simple. We need to stop pandaring to the free market -which is creating ever more homes and second homes for the affluent – and start planning and building the housing that everyday people need.

Purpose-built council housing. For those starting out,  for young families, the disabled, the low waged (public sector workers for example) , those that need to downsize.

Abolish that strangest of all supposed human rights  – the ‘right to buy.’ Replace it with “the right to have a truly affordable roof over your head.” (And don’t let those weasel words ‘affordable housing‘ con you. It means 80% of market rates. In an area where houses cost £1m to buy, thousands per month to rent ‘affordable housing’ is, what? We need social housing because that alone is truly affordable).

And we must stop mouthing all this ‘let the market decide’ malarkey. The market consists of builders who – given the choice – want to build high end executive homes because they make the best profit. What do we need? Homes for the young, the young families, the disabled, the low waged, the elderly. Homes for everyone who makes up our society – or we lose it.

Not necessarily homes to own. One of the reasons ‘social housing’ sometimes gets such a bad press is that there is now so little of it keft that it may be more likely to be let to people with the most significant problems or needs – and thus give it an unfair reputation.

Yet why shouldn’t many more people live this way? It happens elsewhere without difficulty. It used to be the way of life here.

Home ownership was an anomaly of the second half of the twentieth century

When I was young, lots of low-waged people were able to live in the centre of towns and cities. In solid Victorian terraced council houses now sold off under right to buy, worth a million or so, and maybe not even lived in full time by those that now own them. Even at rental income, way outside the pockets of your average working family.

And the people who our towns and cities need and rely on (teachers, nurses, carers, firefighters, young workers etc) sofa-surf, commute incredible distances or plain give up.

An end to laissez faire, say I. Let’s constrain the free market and go back to the politics of common sense – and have a solid practical unflashy homes policy built on the needs of the people rather than what companies and organizations want to build!

Right to Buy – myth and reality

Fascinating  isn’t it, that after all these years  – and the loss of  nearly 1.5million social housing units* – so many people across the political spectrum seem to be so strongly in favour of ‘right to buy’.  Yet we only have to look to  Europe to notice that the most economically successful country (Germany) has one of the lowest home ownership rates, while the two countries with the highest are Ireland and Italy (Nationmaster)

So what are the reasons people support Right to Buy?  (apart from the cynical suggestion of gerrymandering, that is)

A couple of days ago I was arguing hard with people of many political affiliations about David Cameron’s proposed boost to Right to Buy.  And more and more clearly it seemed that the  arguments I heard were at the best, misguided, at the worst self-serving.

The bottom line is that people seem to confuse the right to having a good reliable roof over your head (a basic human right) with the ‘right’ to get onto the property ladder.

First and foremost I don’t see why anyone should feel they have the right to buy anything and that the state should therefore fund them  -particularly at the expense of the living conditions of those with less money. Nor can I work out why people assert the superiority of home ownership with all its responsibilities over the  comparative liberty of rental. My grandmother rented her house in Sheffield for something like 70 years and gloried in the fact that anything that went wrong was the landlord’s problem.

So  here are some of the arguments I encountered, with responses:

Right to buy can help poorer people onto the property ladder. Why should anyone feel they have a ‘right’ to be on the property ladder? If they choose to buy a house rather than rent one , why should the state subsidise them?

Right to buy means that  tenants and owners live side by side – stopping people being prejudiced against  people due to where they live. “ Yet only last week I heard someone who had bought ex-council stock complaining bitterly about having to live next door to ’social housing tenants’!

Right to buy creates a classless society by a method that works (unlike wealth redistribution by taxation)” Classless? surely it’s a way of the state funding another gap between haves and have nots

“A huge amount of temporary social housing is already in the private sector, hired by council from private landlords, many of whom are greedy.” I cannot see how even the most pro- Right to buyer can mention this –  surely Right to buy will put even MORE vulnerable people into their hands!

Right to buy gives people more aspiration to work and be in a position to buy… as opposed to renting on benefits forever” This is plainly ridiculous. In these stringent economic times, aspiration will get you ahead and should not require supporting.

Right to buyPeople in social housing who can afford to buy are mid-earners, so can’t buy unless the purchase price is discounted.” So why should the state fund them? It doesn’t fund the car or the television that I can’t actually afford.

“Some social tenants can afford to buy but enjoy the luxury of social housing. Instead of opposing  Right to buy one should be looking at people in social housing who can afford to buy and getting them out.” If you perceive some tenants as ‘bedblockers’ its an act of madness to lose even more housing from the food chain. And how does this argument sit with the previous argument (postulated by the same person)?

“If councils replace the homes that they sell off under Right to buy– it means more social housing will become available faster.” How long will it take them to replace it?  And it will not  necessarily be built  in the same area where they were sold from. In rural areas this means the poor live further and further from centres where there is work and yet rural transport has got worse and worse and more and more expensive. This is furher ghettoising social housing

Each Right to buy sale  will  fund the building a new affordable unit.  This would be the next best option to removing well-off social tenants.” No, the very best option is not to sell off your social homes AND build enough to replace the millions lost under the last Conservative and Labour governments for the benefit of the future.

Thw bottom line is  Right to buy sales have in the past and will in many areas inflate the cost of local housing – and force the less well-off, the young, those dedicated to public service out of areas  like the one I represent! Affordable housing is already problematic in this district.

Woodbridge – if you want the luxury of having retained firemen, home helps, carers, teaching assistants, paramedics, and all those wonderful people we value – but not enough to pay them what it costs to live in Woodbridge –  oppose the resumption of Right to Buy, or everyone will lose..

*‎1 million uk social housing units were lost between 1979 and 1997,under the Conservatives and a further 420,000 social housing units were lost between 1997 and 2010, under Labour.

A Quick Question for Suffolk Labour activists

C’m on, folks, make your minds up. Is the lesser political party in a coalition responsible or not for the actions of the whole?  Helpful hint: We need a YES or a NO here.

Yet Labour activists in Suffolk have difficulty with this one.

When it comes to decisions made at Suffolk County Council,  pre-2005 (a Labour/Lib Dem coalition for those who do not suffer from political amnesia) they  remember it  as if these were their decisions  – and theirs alone.   As in:

“Labour left an exemplary council in 2005, since then this morally bankrupt group of Conservatives have done their best to run Suffolk services into the ground.”

Julian Swainson 2 Feb, “Don’t Privatise Suffolk Services” Facebook group

Yet suddenly,  when it’s politically expedient, when it’s a NATIONAL coalition  (in which it’s clear that the Lib Dems take a small – but ameliorating – role in sorting out the financial debacle of the previous Labour administration)  then suddenly all we hear from Labour is that the resultant problems are all the Lib Dems’ fault.

Yes – right.   And I’m the Akond of Swat.

Do you know, a  prominent Suffolk  Labour councillor had the crust to say to me the other day:   ” I don’t know how a moral person could be a Lib Dem.”  (Brave fellow, eh? Luckily for him  he didn’t know I go to boxing classes. My strength is as the strength of ten because my heart is pure..)

And yet he was  totally flabbergasted when I replied:

“Torture, rendition, war crimes, denial of democracy,  total failure to support public transport and social housing  in times of plenty, privatisation of the NHS by the back door, destruction of our finances by cosying up to, and deregulating the banks,   threatening to cut ‘worse than Margaret Thatcher’ when in power  and then total amnesia afterwards..   Me,  I wonder how any moral person could ever have stayed with your morally bankrupt party!”

It’s like he was believing his own spin!

Come on,  guys – don’t be such hypocrites.  Be grateful that at local AND national level there is the quiet voice of common sense to ameliorate the extravagant  amnesia of right and left alike.

At the moment we Lib Dems are providing the only practical and vocal opposition to the excesses of  Suffolk’s Tory administration, and their bureaucrats’  heaven, the NSD.  United we jolly well ought to stand.  Divided, I’m happy to point out your deficiencies.