Thursday, November 12, 2009

1 million affordable homes

The long-term benefits of public intervention in the housing sector.

Most people are aware that waiting lists for council homes have hit an all-time high. Trouble is, courtesy of industrial-scale tabloid bombardment, most people would probably blame immigration and single mothers.

The reality, however, is different.

Here's the facts. It is true that the queues are dramatic. The crisis brought a massive increase in repossessions (65,000 homes this year and 45,000 in 2008). At the start of 2009, 200,000 extra families (not people, families), were added to already long queues: 1,8 million families are waiting their turn as opposed to 1.6m in 2008.

Yet how many people are aware that there are one million fewer homes available for rent from councils and housing associations than in 1979?

Read that again: one million fewer affordable homes than twenty years ago. And don't forget that, compared to 1979, today the UK is home to an extra 4.5m people, which can only highlight the urgency of the issue, especially as construction in the private sector has also ground to a halt.

Earlier this year, it emerged that in Scotland there are fewer council houses for rent now than there were 50 years ago (see here for details).

This is why today UNISON launched a report "urging the government to remove all legal and financial barriers to council house-building", calling for 1 million council homes to be built in the lifetime of the next Parliament.

The benefits are obvious. Along with a new generation of high-standard sustainable homes (learning from the recent past mistakes of estates built 'on the cheap', both in the private and public sector) and the chance to replan and regenerate entire areas according to local needs, the programme would benefit the wider economy. Think of all the jobs and training opportunities that would be created and the impulse it would give to the supply chain.

Yes, it would be a massive public investment, but it's one that would bring both long-term benefits and be definitely in the interest of the wider public.

According to UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis, council housing "can also help to prevent another housing and debt bubble by providing more affordable homes".

1 comment:

Helen Highwater said...

Where are all these people living at the moment? Are they in BnB's, as happened in the late 80s/early 90s?

(heck, I even remember that being a storyline on Grange Hill!)