Before the start of a Waltham Forest housing summit, recently held at Walthamstow town hall east London, many agreed that the system was broken. Around 200 people involved in housing were there.
Unfortunately, the purpose was not genuine dialogue, but in reality to give an aura of legitimacy to the tiny group of property developers who operate under the more appealing names "housing associations" with upbeat titles.
They claim a vision to find "innovative solutions" to so-called intractable problems like landlords charging rents too high and bosses paying wages too low!
It was full of glossy materials and slick presentations. Yet it all boiled down to a series of sales pitches: 'Choose my company to be the council's partner to build homes' and 'let my outfit profit from your residents' needs'.
Pocket Living, a company claiming a social conscience, has carved itself a niche in the market to produce 'compact living' at a so-called discount for single professionals.
A nod in the direction of recognising the plight of young people was a piece of research which concluded that what young people needed was "more information about their options"; and the council responded with ideas about "home-sharing" - living in spare rooms - or about housing with shared facilities!
Linda Taaffe of Watlham Forest Trade Union Council spoke at the summit:
"These private companies are not addressing the needs of the thousands of people registered in housing need, or even those who live in need but don't see any point in registering. The market will not solve the problems. Housing is a social need. We need thousands of council homes at social rent."
This was met, amazingly, with a round of applause from those present, but with personal derogatory remarks from the council leader.
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