Back up housing pledge with action
May must give councils powers to tackle problem
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.