Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/697/13303
Homes Crisis: Fund housing need - not fat cat greed!
Paul Kershaw, Unite LE 1111 housing workers' branch
Flooded with Debt, photo Suz www.squashdonkey.co.uk
The Con-Dems have announced a 'housing strategy' that benefits big building companies and banks, including selling off more social housing stock and underwriting banks that offer 95% 'subprime' mortgages for newly built houses. New 'affordable' housing will have rents at 80% of the market level - better described as unaffordable!
Between April and September 2010 there were 13,626 new 'affordable' homes - the lowest since 1945. But between April and September 2011 there were just 454; 259 for social rent and 195 for low-cost home ownership.
In the North West no affordable homes were started. In the eastern region work started on just one. Perhaps Londoners should celebrate the 56 social rented homes started in the capital?
The threat of redundancy, falling pay and the prospect of rising interest rates also contribute to the prediction that the average age of first time buyers will rise to 40. Many who do buy struggle to pay their mortgage.
Will banks actually increase lending on the basis of the government's mortgage underwriting? Instead, profit-seeking lenders are likely to redistribute a fixed pool of mortgage funds from one set of borrowers to another to mop up the guarantee.
The government will also offer public land to building firms - on a build now, pay later basis - and look to make it more profitable to become a private landlord.
But lack of affordable housing means more people are already stuck in private rent homes, paying rising rents and knowing landlords can boot them out as they choose.
Not only do 1.5 million of these homes fail the government decent homes standard, 71,000 homes are actually dangerous and had serious 'Category 1' hazards.
Rising rents, cuts in housing benefits and further attacks on council housing spell distaster.
Official figures show homelessness up 10%. Every day 400 more young people face life on the streets. Almost half of homelessness agencies are turning away young, childless homeless people due to a lack of resources. The number sleeping rough in London is already up 32% on the whole of last year.
The Con-Dems fear the political blowback from their cuts. Cameron and Clegg have been shown walking around sites talking about the 'need to build'.
The government has said it will restore 10% of the cuts to housing spending announced in last year's budget.
But last year's cuts amounted to 70% of spending on housing and were supplemented by housing benefit cuts.
In reality, the extra money is designed to help their friends in the banks and building firms.
The Socialist Party's demands for real action include:
- Reverse all housing and housing benefit cuts
- Reintroduce private sector secure tenancies and rent controls
- For massive investment in building and renovating truly affordable, good quality council housing
- For a huge programme of construction job creation with trade union rates of pay
- Councils should use their planning powers to stop housing associations issuing short-term tenancies. If the associations refuse, take them back in-house!
- Banks and building giants should be fully nationalised and run to meet social need instead of maximising profits and bonuses, and provide cheap, no or low interest mortgages
In The Socialist 7 December 2011:
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