Britain is suffering from a housing crisis which requires urgent action:
- The right to have a good home is a fundamental human right.
- Millennials spend three times more of income on housing than grandparents [i]
- Thousands of people live in tenancies where they can be evicted with little notice.
- The number of social houses being built at its lowest for 70 years
- Much housing is poorly insulated causing fuel poverty and climate change
- The average house price in 2015/16 was more than two and a half times the average in 1995/96, after adjusting for inflation. Incomes for this age group grew just a fifth in that time.[ii]
- Every year the government pays millions in public money to private landlords which often offer poor value.
- The problems of the housing market has sunk the whole economy into recession, and if not effectively managed will do so again.
I call for:
- A national housing scheme bringing different bodies involving both social housing and state. People applying for housing and moving housing should be a seamless experience.
- The scheme should borrow money to build and buy housing, it would be a safe investment.
- People renting public housing should have the same security as people who own their own house.
- A person who lost their job would have no fear of eviction, but could focus on finding another job.
- Public housing should be of safe and of a high quality.
- Housing should be run democratically with people consulted at all levels.
- The government should implement an additional inheritance tax to help fund the housing. People who have benefited from the substantial increases in housing over their lives can share the benefits with the next generation.
- Rents should be fair and reasonable. Someone who rents a property should not be worse off over their lifetime than someone who buys their own home.
- End the right to buy of public and social housing.
- Housing should be as environmental sound as possible. This not only addresses climate change but fuel poverty.
- Housing should be built integrated with local services, public transport and green spaces.
Housing is profitable. Government intervention in the long term would generate income for the government and reduce housing costs. Expanding public housing is economically and environmentally sustainable, it is a no-brainer.
Public housing expansion should be integrated with a 100-year plans for sustainable Cities (more details coming soon), integrating higher density housing with business, commerce, public services and high-quality public transport – making every city a great place to live.
Currently shopping, businesses and housing are normally segregated using land ineffectively. By creating high density hubs of housing, business, shopping and public transport vibrant cities can make effective use of the land. Better planning land use and public transport will create greener cities and reduce the commute.
An average large supermarket, has lots of single level parking and a large single storey building. Using the land differently could create over the country hundreds of thousands of homes without encroaching on Greenbelt. People should be involved in all stages of the planning process to ensure that the homes that are built are ones that people want to live in.
Apartments are great for students, many young singles and many older people, by creating different options people who want to will be able to move out of houses other people want. As a student and recent graduate I happily lived in a tenement in the West End of Glasgow. When old I would be more than happy to live in an apartment over a supermarket with great public transport links. The aim is not to create housing of last resort, but housing that your average person would be happy to live in. Your average family could live their whole life in public housing, and feel proud of it.
It’s not all about high density. If someone wanted to buy a house but could not get a mortgage but could afford to rent, the housing scheme could buy the house and rent it. There is no point in building social houses at a cheap price for people to buy, because when they are sold they are no longer social houses. Instead, houses would be built to rent.
The scheme would step in and compulsory purchase, at a reasonable price, properties from failing private landlords and take over as landlord. A clear legal framework would protect the rights of tenants, achieve value for the public and defend the rights of property owners. While the right of everyone to a good house would trump the right of the private profit of the few, the state must never act in a way that is arbitrary and must balance the rights of property with the rights of all to a limited resource.
In the countryside the housing scheme could favour local people who otherwise have to move out of the area.
Not every private landlord is bad. When I was a student I bought a flat, my Dad guaranteed the mortgage, I offered good rates to friends and everyone won. However, the priority for housing must be as a place for people to live.