Ted Eytan/cc
Ted Eytan/cc

Council homes and rent controls

Rob Thomas, Hackney Socialist Party

Unaffordable rents, sky-high house prices and rising cost of living after multiple crises – it’s no wonder that young people experience the worst of the housing crisis. The rate of youth homelessness in London rose by 20% (in 2022) and is increasing, according to Centrepoint, a youth homelessness charity.

14 years of austerity has cut Britain’s public services to the bone, and over a decade of wage restraint has left the average worker £14,000 worse off than they were in 2010.

On top of less money in our pockets when finally starting a career, many young workers today also have to pass through extortionate university education. Enormous tuition fees and maintenance loans saddle us with lifelong debt. Students are left to fend for themselves in London’s private housing market or choose cramped and often poor-quality halls.

A change of government looks almost certain this year. But would the situation facing working-class people under Starmer’s Labour be any better? Starmer and Reeves are keen to stress Labour’s ‘iron-clad fiscal rules’ at every opportunity, ensuring that the bosses know that they will be a safe pair of hands. This means no more money for Britain’s cash-strapped councils which are already stretched beyond limit dealing with the housing crisis. No help with soaring rents – it is not uncommon for 50% of Londoners’ pay to be spent on rent. Starmer’s ditching of Corbyn’s 2019 manifesto proposal to build 500,000 council houses means the dire situation will certainly continue.

The need to build an alternative to this rotten system has never been clearer. Against the backdrop of a huge increase in wealth inequality since 2019, working-class people are beginning to fight back, demanding fair pay and working conditions and an end to endless war and violence. Corbyn’s programme reached a number of people, showing an alternative was possible and 67% young people today consider themselves ‘socialist’. We need a socialist solution to the housing crisis.

The Socialist Party says:

  • Slash rents and introduce democratically decided rent controls now
  • Introduce compulsory licensing of all landlords to ensure decent housing standards
  • Carry out a mass programme of council home building. Councils should fight the cuts, by setting no-cuts, needs-based budgets as part of building a mass campaign for the funding they need
  • Take over empty properties
  • Nationalise the large building companies, land and banks, under democratic workers’ control and public ownership, to ensure enough good-quality council housing and cheap mortgages
  • Build a new mass workers’ party
  • Fight for socialist change in Britain and internationally