Trust Labour to fix Tory hous­ing cri­sis


Sunday Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - At Labour’s con­fer­ence I was asked by a phar­macy group to take a blood pres­sure test. They said mine was fine and I should keep on do­ing what­ever it is I’m do­ing. But they told me many del­e­gates should see a doc­tor. This week they tested Tories at their c

Theresa May told her con­fer­ence she wanted to “build a bet­ter Bri­tain”. But she couldn’t even build a proper con­fer­ence set, with first an F off then an E. She also got a P45 from a pro­tester. What I found harder to swal­low than her Strep­sil was her claim on hous­ing.

She promised to spend £2bil­lion on af­ford­able and coun­cil hous­ing.

Af­ter the speech, her spin doc­tors had to con­fess that her “re­birth of coun­cil house build­ing” would build 25,000 homes over five years. With more than a mil­lion wait­ing for a coun­cil house, it doesn’t even amount to a stick­ing plas­ter on a gap­ing wound caused by the Tories.

Thatcher’s Right to Buy, which gave huge dis­counts to coun­cil house ten­ants to buy their homes, took two mil­lion out of sup­ply. For ev­ery 10 coun­cil houses sold, only one new one was built. Over a third of those sold ended up in the pri­vate rental mar­ket.

So as tax­pay­ers, we built the coun­cil houses, sub­sidised the sub­stan­tial dis­count that al­lowed ten­ants to buy and sell for a profit, then paid huge amounts in hous­ing ben­e­fit to the pri­vate land­lords who bought them.

When I took over hous­ing in 1997, I slashed the Right to Buy dis­count to make it harder. I also spent £20bil­lion bring­ing coun­cil prop­er­ties up to the De­cent Homes Stan­dard af­ter years of ne­glect, where peo­ple were still liv­ing with out­side toi­lets.

I in­tro­duced a Key Work­ers Ini­tia­tive which of­fered cheaper shared own­er­ship prop­er­ties for teach­ers and nurses in Lon­don.

We also saw more hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tions tak­ing the lead in build­ing so­cial hous­ing.

This was all un­done by the Tories when they got back in.

Then Chan­cel­lor Ge­orge Os­borne in­creased the Right to Buy dis­count, which ac­cel­er­ated the num­ber of coun­cil houses be­ing sold off. By 2014-15 we were los­ing 12,000 a year and only start­ing to build 2,000 a year.

So even un­der May’s plans for build­ing 5,000 a year, we’ll still be los­ing more than we build.

Os­borne also cut the amount of gov­ern­ment money we gave to hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tions to build so­cial homes, from £3bil­lion a year to just £450mil­lion.

So­cial rents changed to af­ford­able rent – ac­tu­ally 80 per cent of mar­ket rent. The num­ber of so­cial homes built to rent dropped from 37,000 a year un­der Labour to just 1,000 now.

That meant the Gov­ern­ment ended up pay­ing more money in hous­ing ben­e­fit in­stead of build­ing the homes to keep rents low.

In­stead, Os­borne put bil­lions into Help to Buy, a pro­gramme that sub­sidised peo­ple buy­ing £450,000 homes – for the few, not the many. What we re­ally need is a rad­i­cal so­cial hous­ing pro­gramme – and Labour has grasped that. Its man­i­festo promised to build 100,000 coun­cil and so­cial houses a year, 20 times more than May’s of­fer­ing.

When I was Deputy Prime Min­is­ter I built houses for £60,000 with­out a de­posit or mort­gage to rent or buy. These “flat pack” mo­du­lar homes can be built off site and then as­sem­bled.

They’re cheap and en­er­gy­ef­fi­cient, re­duc­ing fuel bills for ten­ants. Let’s build them on pub­lic brown­field land we own. It’s an area the size of the West Mid­lands.

Labour also pro­pose pri­vate rent con­trols. The to­tal rent paid to pri­vate land­lords is more than dou­ble the mort­gage in­ter­est rate paid to banks by home­own­ers.

Why not look at a liv­ing rent, with rents linked to lo­cal earn­ings so we can crack down on the prof­i­teer­ing of buy-to-let land­lords?

And fi­nally, let’s scrap Right to Buy for good. It’s a lot­tery for those who have a coun­cil house and we end up pay­ing for it with fewer homes for those in need.

That’s a proper hous­ing rev­o­lu­tion and, if Labour gets it right, it’ll help Jeremy Cor­byn se­cure the dream home he needs – No10.


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