Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/879/21777

From The Socialist newspaper, 18 November 2015

The end of social housing? How can we solve the housing crisis?

Demonstrators on the London March for Homes, 15.01.2015, photo by Paul Mattsson

Demonstrators on the London March for Homes, 15.01.2015, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Paula Mitchell (London Socialist Party secretary) and Suzanne Muna (Unite LE1111 housing branch secretary and Unite executive)

The cat is out of the bag. As the Financial Times reported on 13 November: "Chancellor George Osborne is considering a radical multibillion-pound plan to privatise the government's stake in housing associations".

Coupled with the new Housing Bill, the Tories aim to complete what Margaret Thatcher started - the end of social housing.

The government recently announced that housing associations, which are independent charities, would be brought into the public sector. Housing associations have a debt of about 60 billion and a 45 billion historic public grant. Bringing them into the public sector is simply in order that they can be fully privatised.

This step would be the biggest privatisation yet - a windfall for the Treasury, and opening up 133 billion of assets to private profit.

Already, one of the largest housing associations, Genesis, has said it no longer wants to be in the business of social housing, but to build for sale, rent at market rates, or shared ownership. Inside Housing reported: "Neil Hadden, CEO of Genesis, references Inside Housing's recent survey finding that around a third of housing associations will stop building sub-market rent homes. He suspects the other two thirds are 'lying'."

The development of social housing was a huge step forward for working class people. But the ruling class has never granted us anything out of kindness.

The post-World War One government subsidy for council housing was in response to mass rent strikes and the Russian Revolution. The parliamentary secretary to the Local Government Board said: "The money we are going to spend on housing is an insurance against Bolshevism and revolution".

Revolution

The 1945 Labour government created the welfare state, including large scale council house building.

But the rich have never accepted a social responsibility for housing and their political representatives have spent the last 35 years dismantling it. Thatcher's Right to Buy legislation in 1980 forced councils to sell off homes at a massive discount to tenants.

One million houses were sold within ten years. At the same time, spending restrictions reduced new council house building. Then in 1988, Large Scale Voluntary Transfer enabled the moving of housing stock from council ownership into housing association control (which was then massively accelerated under Tony Blair).

This government of the rich wants to provide massive profits for landlords, building companies and property speculators, while immiserating working class people.

Austerity

So far they have gotten away with it. Their biggest advantage has been the unwillingness of right-wing leaders of the trade unions and Labour to mount a fight.

But now the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership shows the potential for a fight. The huge enthusiasm for an anti-austerity programme needs to be organised.

Britain faces a massive housing crisis, and the eye of the storm is London.

'Social cleansing' is official - statistics published in the summer suggest that tens of thousands of families have been forced out of inner London in the last five years. 50,000 have been placed outside of their borough by local councils.

Austerity attacks - the bedroom tax, benefit caps, pay cuts and job losses - and a massive lack of housing that ordinary people can afford means working class people are driven out and areas become 'gentrified'.

In April only 43 houses for sale in the capital were affordable to first-time buyers. Small two-bed houses in normal working class streets sell for half a million pounds.

Luxury housing typically features apartments at up to 12 million. Prices have soared as international billionaires buy up property.

In last six years overseas companies have bought 100 billion of property in London. Much of this is purely speculative. A third of the property on 'Billionaires' Row' in Hampstead, to a value of 350 million, is lying empty.

Playground for the rich

Government policies such as Help to Buy and very low interest rates, along with the influx of overseas wealth, have blown a housing bubble just waiting for another crisis.

Private rents are sky high. The average rent for a two-bed home is now over 2,200 a month.

Average rents take up over half the pay of people like teachers and social workers, and would consume the whole pay of lower paid workers. Rip-off estate agents add to the misery with huge fees.

And private rent has little security of tenure. Evictions of private rented households in England have doubled in five years.

In the year up to September 2015, 22,531 private renting households were forced out of their homes. As Shelter comment: "Tragically, this year marks the shocking milestone of 100,000 children waking up homeless at Christmas".

The government has encouraged growth of the buy-to-let market, which is now 20% of all housing wealth. As well as big landlords this now involves large numbers of ordinary people in a precarious effort to secure a 'pension' for their future.

And now communities face 'regeneration': councils or housing associations hand homes and public land over to private developers, with existing residents shunted out with limited rights to return. For example on the Isle of Dogs in Tower Hamlets, all the housing stock owned by One Housing Group is to be 'regenerated', and only 30% will be 'affordable'.

Housing campaigners estimate that there are 800,000 too few homes in London.

Community support

Big numbers of community campaigns have grown up to defend estates against social cleansing, such as BoleynDev 100, Save Our Island Homes, New Era, Focus E15, the Aylesbury, Fred Wigg & John Walsh Towers, Sweets Way and many more. Socialist Party members are involved wherever we can be.

Campaigns can include lobbies and demonstrations, and petitions that force councils to debate. It is important that campaigns strive to involve as many residents as possible, with inclusive democratic organising groups, and seek to appeal to the wider community for support.

Solidarity with those facing unfair eviction from individual homes, as well as blockades and occupations to defend estates, are necessary.

The methods of a hundred years ago could return in the form of rent strikes - especially there is the possibility of this developing on student campuses.

Victories are extremely important both for the people directly involved and in increasing confidence more widely. But at the moment these campaigns tend to be short-term and not linked.

The Socialist Party argues that wherever possible campaigns should be brought together in towns and boroughs, with local demos such as those in Waltham Forest and Haringey, and the London and Wales Marches for Homes earlier this year.

Trade unions

The need for a mass movement is one of the reasons why we demand that trade unions take up housing.

Following a series of high-profile battles over pay and conditions, the Unite housing workers branch has initiated a Sector Standards campaign. The branch also produced a Housing Manifesto with a set of demands that can be used for elections. Other trade unions have also started to campaign on housing needs of their members.

Trade unions can play a crucial role, not only in organising housing and construction workers, but also using their strength and power to fight for homes for all.

Unite housing workers have raised a proposal for a national housing alliance initiated by Unite, holding out the potential of a powerful national body which can draw together the strength of trade unions with community campaigns.


Tories' Housing Bill

'Pay to Stay' requires tenants in social housing on higher incomes to pay market, or near-market, rents. Right to Buy is extended to Housing Association tenants. The subsidy for this is from state funds: the Bill requires councils to dispose of expensive vacant properties to fund new 'affordable' housing.

The Bill includes a 'starter homes provision', but Shelter has calculated that most will be unaffordable to people on average incomes.

The Bill gives the Secretary of State further powers to intervene (a total of 32 new powers!), including to reduce regulations on housing associations.


A programme to solve the housing crisis

Demands on the Greater London Authority (Assembly and Mayor)

Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader on a programme to build council houses and cap rents. The 2016 London elections give a huge opportunity to fight to end the housing crisis, building on this victory. The GLA controls a budget of 17 billion plus extra from the regional housing fund. It develops a housing strategy for the whole of London which borough councils are expected to comply with. It can use same prudential borrowing that councils can. Thus the GLA has the capacity to be the spearhead of an anti-austerity fight.

The land is there - Transport for London alone owns 5,700 acres of land. There are plans to build 10,000 homes in the next decade, on 300 acres. But it has the space to build nearly 200,000!

Demands on councils

There are now no excuses left for Labour councils. The Socialist Party is part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which has stood anti-austerity candidates against cutting councillors. We appeal to all Labour councillors to take a stand and act to solve the housing crisis!

Councils could lead a fight, like Liverpool City Council did in the 1980s, when, under a socialist leadership (Militant - now the Socialist Party), they refused to implement Tory cuts. Instead the council built 5,400 council houses, created proper apprenticeships and jobs, and mounted a mass campaign to win the funding from Thatcher's Tory government.

Using current reserves and borrowing powers there is enough money for councils to build hundreds of thousands of homes.

How to achieve homes for all - take the wealth off the 1%!

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 18 November 2015:


Socialist Party news and analysis

How to defend Corbyn and defeat austerity

We can defeat the Tory cuts!

Tories flog bank assets to hellhound US profiteers

Athletics doping scandal: big business profits behind global sports corruption

Councils won't spend a penny

Them & Us


Socialist Party features

The end of social housing? How can we solve the housing crisis?

How can young people organise to support Jeremy Corbyn?


International socialist news and analysis

Paris terror attacks


Workplace news and analysis

Junior doctors: first strikes in 40 years

Trade union action needed to fight for steel jobs

Historic London bus drivers' agreement

Reinstate sacked CWU reps

Pro-Corbyn mood among Usdaw members

Support for Roger Bannister in Unison election

Workplace news in brief


Readers' comments and reviews

All NHS unions should join junior doctors' strike

A day in the life of a Game retail worker

Why I joined: "I already feel as if I am finally home"

Robert Tressell's characters are all too real to me

My struggle for an income I can live on


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Labour bans union activist

Thousands march against India premier's bloody sectarianism

Strike to save Lambeth libraries

Gaining momentum in Lewisham

Anger at care home closure


 

Home   |   The Socialist 18 November 2015   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Housing:

triangleCorbyn must challenge pro-gentrification council leader or others will

triangleNo more excuses: fit sprinklers now!

triangleStrike wave continues with 49 walkout days by housing workers

triangleHousing campaigners ask Corbyn to instruct Labour council regeneration ballots

triangleAnger over plan to build housing on Yorkshire flood plain

Homes:

triangleTories u-turn on social housing benefit cap and borrowing to build

triangleFearful Tories mull borrowing to build

triangleNasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

triangleNo more fire deaths - ensure safety now!

Council:

triangleUSA: Historic vote for Ginger Jentzen campaign in Minneapolis

triangleIs cuts-making Preston 'beating Tory austerity'?

triangleUS: Minneapolis Socialist chimes with voters

London:

triangleLondon: Support event for education workers in Turkey

Austerity:

triangleTories on the brink - kick them out!

Unite:

triangleUnite union sector conferences: coordinate action over pay

Socialist Party:

triangleBirmingham South East Socialist Party: NHS in Meltdown - What can be done?

Market:

triangle'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future

Rents:

triangleYoung people being strangled by debts

Evictions:

triangleHousing crisis: Corbyn's positive measures blanked by Labour's right

Privatisation:

trianglePFI privateers dodge tax

Privatised:

triangle4,800 young people hurt after officers 'restrain' them

Public sector:

triangleBosses say 217 years to close pay gap - workers' struggle can close it now!

Shelter:

triangleHurricane Harvey: A tragedy made far worse by capitalism

Nationalise:

triangleWhat we saw

Councillors:

triangleDerby: expenses for councillors, cuts for everyone else

Bedroom tax:

triangleThem & us

Jeremy Corbyn:

triangleFilm - Dennis Skinner: Nature of the Beast

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition:

triangleSurveying Labour councillors - will they fight cuts?

Suzanne Muna:

triangleAfter the Unite elections - now turn outwards

Tower Hamlets:

triangleEast London & Tower Hamlets Socialist Party: 2017 - From Trump to Paradise Papers; a year in review

Welfare:

triangleChild poverty set to hit 5.2m - unions and Corbyn must act now

Welfare state:

triangle"Austerity hurts and the only alternative is socialism"

Occupations:

triangleLSE victory

Wales:

triangleCardiff East Socialist Party: Catalonia, Scotland and Wales

Waltham Forest:

triangleWaltham Forest Socialist Party: What attitude should socialists take to the 2018 local elections?

Margaret Thatcher:

triangleWho's watching who?: The fight for justice, trade union and democratic rights

Homeless:

triangleHomelessness and evictions soar under the Tories

Debt:

triangleMarch for free education! We demand a future!

Council tax:

triangleBristol's Labour mayor calls anti-austerity march - now stop making cuts!

Liverpool:

triangleHuge support for strikes of bus drivers and train guards

Haringey:

triangleHundreds march against Labour council's development plan

Militant:

triangleThe Socialist inbox

Local government:

triangleUnite local government sector plans strike ballot

Mortgages:

triangleOver a million families in 'extreme problem debt'

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

15/11/17

Prisons

4,800 young people hurt after officers 'restrain' them

15/11/17

Preston

Is cuts-making Preston 'beating Tory austerity'?

15/11/17

Housing

No more excuses: fit sprinklers now!

15/11/17

What we saw

What we saw

15/11/17

Energy

We're freezing: reverse cuts to boiler replacement schemes!

15/11/17

Tories

Tories on the brink - kick them out!

14/11/17

Socialist

Socialism 2017: Organising to fight back

8/11/17

What we saw

What we saw

8/11/17

Child poverty

Child poverty set to hit 5.2m - unions and Corbyn must act now

8/11/17

Young people

We can win the vote at 16!

8/11/17

Women

Bosses say 217 years to close pay gap - workers' struggle can close it now!

8/11/17

Women

Westminster sexual harassment scandal

8/11/17

Students

Walk out against tuition fees on Budget Day!

8/11/17

Tax

PFI privateers dodge tax

7/11/17

Tax

'Paradise' for billionaires - austerity for us

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle15 Nov March for free education! We demand a future!

triangle15 Nov Tories on the brink - kick them out!

Socialism 2017

triangle14 Nov Socialism 2017: Organising to fight back

triangle13 Nov Strike wave continues with 49 walkout days by housing workers

triangle10 Nov US: Historic vote for Ginger Jentzen campaign in Minneapolis

triangle10 Nov Strikers picket the South Western Railway network

triangle10 Nov Europe in crisis, revolutionary winds in Catalonia

More ...

triangle20 Nov Birmingham Central Socialist Party: How can socialists support upcoming strikes?

triangle21 Nov Cardiff Socialist Students: Socialism and the struggle for LGBT rights

triangle21 Nov Birmingham South East Socialist Party: NHS in Meltdown - What can be done?

triangle21 Nov Sheffield North Socialist Party: The causes of capitalist crisis

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2