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Theft by government? Philanthropists beware, corporates rejoice, 3.4m people betrayed

What isn’t acquired by ‘right to buy’ will be privatised. As many teachers, social workers, GPs, disabled and disadvantaged people are driven to desperation by their tortuous ‘reforms’, government now proposes to rob the charitable sector.

persimmon solihullRuefully citizens watch and attempt to protest as the Conservative government spends their taxpayers’ money – so often unwisely and against the public interest. They have seen local councils robbed of their housing stock – and political devotion to the corporate sector favouring the landlord interest and delighting other potential party funders – builders of ugly, expensive and ‘poky’ housing (left).

Having failed to induce charities to take over social care at rock bottom prices (Big Society agenda to increase the sector’s role in public service provision) government has reduced their funding and is now attempting to break up the housing trusts set up by philanthropists.

bournville social housing

Government proposals will eventually benefit the landlord and corporate building sector by destroying the cherished legacies of philanthropic groups and individuals the Guinness Partnership, the Fry Housing trust, Aster, B3Living, Midland Heart, Orbit, Poplar HARCA, Riverside, Sovereign, SpectrumTrafford Housing Trust, the Haig Housing Trust and the Bournville Village Trust (above).

Further questions:

  • Will they privatise the sort of unsaleable accommodation provided by the Church Housing Trust – rich pickings for Serco etc?
  • Will much of the Peabody Group’s huge social housing provision pass eventually into the hands of private landlords?

Deplorable case history in brief:

About 800,000 housing association tenants already have a “right to acquire” their homes. Phoenix Community Housing, in south-east London, retains only a small proportion of the proceeds from each right-to-buy sale under current legislation. One of its homes valued at £205,000 in 2014 was sold through right to buy for £105,000, so private rentals-to-let-properties-007the housing association only received £27,332 – far short of the amount needed to build a replacement. Those who cannot afford the ‘right to buy’ housing will be driven to the expensive private renting sector which will happily receive the extra taxpayer subsidy.

Game set and match?

The government states that every house purchased will be replaced “on a one-for-one basis” with more affordable homes but the Department for Communities and Local Government admits that though 1.88m council homes in England have been sold since right to buy was introduced – 37% of the total stock of council homes – local authorities have built just 345,000 homes over the same period. It fails to add that this has been due to central government restrictions on the use of money derived from local housing sales.

If government means to keep its word this time, profit-driven building corporations will demand subsidies – taxpayers’ money to induce them to build the social housing needed and promised by government.

The social gap widens: whilst these proposals will cheer rather than disturb government grandees with second and third homes inherited, acquired or bestowed [latest taxpayer funded stately home in the Cotswolds ironically for unelected minister for social equality], 3.4 million people are now on the national waiting list for social housing in England.

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Housing: current election promises under fire – how will these Green proposals be received?

Yesterday, the Financial Times recorded that an Ipsos Mori poll found that 15% of people thought it was one of the most important issues facing Britain today, up from just 5% in 2010, at the start of the last government. ComRes also found that 16% of people considered housing affordability to be a crucial issue, the highest level of concern since the last housing bubble in 2007. 80% of the public believe there housing crisis according to Mori.

The FT reported that spending on new social housing was cut from £2.5bn in the last year of the previous Labour government to £651m a year under the coalition.

Peter Roach, chief executive of Bournville Village Trust – a housing treasure trove – has described the extension of the right to buy plan as “unfair and shameful . . .”. He said: “We understand people’s home ownership aspirations, but the concept of giving huge amounts of taxpayers’ money to provide discounts for people already enjoying the comfort of good quality affordable homes whilst at the same time watching waiting lists soar is unfair and shameful.”

The FT reports that Jeremy Blackburn, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said: “none of the three main party leaders have shown themselves ready to grapple with the thorny issues that block a solution to our housing crisis”, particularly “a drastic increase in supply across all tenures”.

MEP Keith Taylor has issued a new report on the UK housing crisis which demonstrates that the current system, with its unaffordable prices and rents and a depleted stock of social housing, is directly linked to Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy policy, and the failures of successive governments to ensure that those in greatest need are provided for. Its summarised recommendations:

  • Rent control and tenant protection.
  • Investment in social housing as the best way of ensuring an availability of genuinely affordable housing.
  • New taxation frameworks to ensure those who have benefited from the property boom are contributing a fair share and disincentivise speculation and land banking.
  • New powers for local authorities to deal with empty properties, and the decriminalisation of squatting.
  • Structures to support and promote housing co-operatives.
  • Improved standards for construction and maintenance of all homes, to improve quality of life for residents and tackle domestic emissions.

Will the FT’s Kate Allen and Jim Pickard add these proposals to their scrutiny of those made by the three main parties?

Keith Taylor sits on the Environment Committee and the Transport and Tourism Committee within the European Parliament. He also sits on the delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Bad decisions by government: 38 – re social housing

joan goodwin housing liaison boardAs people on the country’s housing registers wait in vain to be decently housed, Joan Goodwin, Chairman of Birmingham City Council’s Housing Liaison Board (right), clarifies the blocks on effective action.

Speaking on Adrian Goldberg’s WM Radio programme today, she explained that when representatives of the country’s councils get together they all call for government permission to borrow in order to build social housing – but they do not get it.

Meanwhile developers build ‘aspirational’ homes are riding roughshod over local residents’ wishes, building on greenfield or even floodprone sites and threatening councils with legal action if not given planning permission.

Joan Goodwin added persuasively that, in addition to meeting people’s needs, building social housing would give a nation-wide boost to the economy.