As private landlords and super-rich cash in
One hundred million pounds of central London property was sold in the 24 hours after the Tory victory in the general election, as rich buyers breathed a sigh of relief that Labour’s timid mansion tax was dead and the tax loopholes for super-rich ‘non-doms’ would continue.
This is a different world to most of us who are experiencing the effects of this runaway property market, making housing to buy or rent unaffordable.
Summing up the current ‘them and us’ housing scandal the chief executive of Shelter recently said: “No matter how hard they work or save, an entire generation is being forced to watch their dreams of a stable future slip through their fingers, stuck in properties where rents eat up their salaries and short-term contracts leave them with no stability at all”.
So much for the hard working families that Cameron bangs on about. There’s plenty of people working hard but with absolutely no prospect of finding an affordable, secure place to live as a result.
There is a desperate shortage of affordable housing. Councils have effectively privatised much of their stock, making being on the housing waiting list almost a pointless exercise. And since the Tories brought in the ‘right to buy’ council houses in 1980, thousands of previously council owned homes have become nice little earners for private landlords.
Now the Tories want to force housing associations to sell off their assets at a discount, so the only providers of remotely affordable housing are to be hamstrung.
The Tories smugly point to the private sector to fill the gaps. But we all know that private renting is expensive and sometimes even dangerous.
Citizens Advice produced a report that found one in six privately rented homes in England are “physically unsafe” – 750,000 households. This can include damp, cold, rodent infestation and risk of falls.
And if tenants complain about the conditions then they risk being turfed-out in favour of someone who will keep quiet.
The big building firms whinge that there’s too much ‘red tape’ but private developers are no longer obliged to provide even a small number of ‘affordable homes’ in new housing projects. And housing starts are at their lowest levels since the 1920s. Clearly the private sector cannot meet the housing needs of the population. Yet a decent, secure, affordable place to live should be everyone’s basic right.
- End the privatisation of council and housing association housing.
- Estates should be run under the democratic control of tenants and the local community, with affordable rents and secure tenancies.
- Rent controls to stop private landlords charging excessive rents.
- For the nationalisation of the banks and building industry under democratic workers’ control and management, to fund and build a massive scheme of affordable council house building.