Back up hous­ing pledge with ac­tion

May must give coun­cils pow­ers to tackle prob­lem

Sunday Sun - - Comment&analysis -

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s hous­ing pledge needs to backed up by giv­ing coun­cils pow­ers to tackle the prob­lem THERESA May says she wants to end the “stigma” around so­cial hous­ing.

That in­cludes coun­cil hous­ing and homes pro­vided by hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tions.

Dif­fi­cul­ties get­ting on the hous­ing lad­der may help ex­plain why some peo­ple have lost faith in the cur­rent eco­nomic sys­tem – and are back­ing Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn, who prom­ises a fairer so­ci­ety.

But the idea that ev­ery­one should own a home wasn’t tra­di­tion­ally a left-wing idea. It was pro­moted by for­mer Tory Prime Min­is­ter Mar­garet Thatcher.

It was once con­sid­ered nor­mal for peo­ple to spend their whole lives in rented ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Back in 1961, just 30 per cent of UK house­holds were in a home they owned.

That’s shot up. It’s also true that home own­er­ship has fallen in re­cent years – but not by much.

Fig­ures from House of Com­mons re­searchers show that in 1996, 63 per cent of house­holds in the North East were owne­roc­cu­piers. That fell to 60 per cent by 2016.

The big change is what’s hap­pened to rented homes.

In 1996, 31 per cent of North East house­holds were in rented so­cial hous­ing. That’s fallen to 23 per cent.

But the pro­por­tion in pri­vately-rented ac­com­mo­da­tion rose from just five per cent to 16 per cent.

Pri­vate land­lords aren’t all bad. Many pro­vide a good ser­vice to their ten­ants – but some don’t.

And with any pri­vately-rented ten­ancy, there’s a chance of be­ing turfed out of your home sim­ply be­cause the land­lord has de­cided to sell it.

The rise of the pri­vate land­lord is not healthy.

Is the an­swer to in­crease home own­er­ship? Sure, if that’s pos­si­ble. But it’s not for ev­ery­one.

The av­er­age two-bed home in New­cas­tle costs £145,000, which means you need a de­posit of around £29,000 to buy it with a mort­gage.

Some peo­ple don’t have the in­come to save that much. And build­ing new prop­er­ties may help, but it’s un­likely to lead to the huge fall in prices needed to make home-own­er­ship af­ford­able to ev­ery­one.

Theresa May might be on to some­thing. Shouldn’t the state step in and pro­vide high-qual­ity, se­cure and af­ford­able homes when the free mar­ket can’t?

But if she means what she says, she needs to en­sure coun­cils have the pow­ers and re­sources to build the homes they need.

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