Ali Cook, Dorset Socialist Party
Our problems with housing are countless. One-in-six people aged 18-34, 2.6 million people, live in poor-quality accommodation, which is worsening their physical and mental health.
The average house now costs more than ten times the average salary. And the cost of renting is the highest in UK history. This is on top of the absurd cost of everything else we need.
When he was Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto promised to build half a million council houses. This would have gone some way to closing the housing deficit.
Over one million households are waiting for social homes. Even this is dwarfed by the eight million people in housing need.
The Tories have failed us. But can we rely on a Keir Starmer Labour government to deliver anywhere near this?
The Labour Party doesn’t even mention housing as one of its main five ‘missions for a better Britain’. Keir Starmer has ditched Jeremy Corbyn’s bold promise of 500,000 council homes.
On the local level, Labour councils and mayors up and down the country have attempted to ‘solve’ the housing crisis by handing public land over to private property developers to build tower blocks of small, expensive flats that nobody can afford. Many of these properties lay empty, used for property speculation to benefit the rich.
Right now, councils have the power to build many good-quality, environmentally friendly, and affordable council houses. Instead of going into the pockets of greedy private landlords, the rent generated could actually be put towards public services.
Councils could also implement rent control, fund fire safety measures, and make homes energy efficient. If Labour councils used their large financial means to do all that, they could launch a mass campaign to win the money back from central government.
This is one of many reasons why the Socialist Party is standing as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in the local elections, and why it is important to vote TUSC on 4 May.
We urgently need housing, and we cannot rely on Sunak and Starmer to deliver this. Workers also urgently need our own mass party that will fight for the bold socialist policies – nationalising the large building companies, land, and the banks – so we can sort out the housing mess.
Socialist Party demands on housing:
- A mass programme building council homes with lifetime secure tenancies. Take over empty property for council housing
- End housing privatisation
- Regeneration without loss of social housing. No more handing public land and homes over to property developers. Residents’ right to vote on all regeneration schemes
- Rent control that caps the level of rent. Fair rent decisions should be made by elected bodies of tenants, housing workers, and representatives of trade unions
- Reverse the cuts to housing benefits – end evictions due to austerity cuts
- Remove all dangerous cladding now – councils should do the job immediately and bill the government
- Decent pay, conditions, and safety for all housing and construction workers, including stopping the use of blacklisting firms
- For genuinely independent, democratic tenants and residents associations. Genuine accountability and control, including over repairs
- Sell-back option and ‘portable discounts’ for current leaseholders and shared-ownerships to escape the trap. End any future leasehold and shared-ownership – we need council housing and cheap mortgages instead!
- End the commercialisation of housing associations, and end the registration of for-profit social-housing providers – these are only run in the interests of big business and hedge funds. Take the housing associations into democratic public ownership. This could include the option to return to council ownership with independent tenant democratic control, or co-ops
- Nationalise the large building companies, land, and banks to ensure enough good standard council housing and cheap mortgages
- A democratic socialist society could plan and provide decent homes, jobs and services for all