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Fixing the housing crisis

Fixing the housing crisis

A recent Resolution Foundation report shone light on the UK’s growing intergenerational divide where millennials, aged between 15 and 35, fared significantly worse than their parents. The Foundation has released several studies, showing how young people across the spectrum believe they are receiving a poorer housing experience than their parents and grandparents.

The studies highlighted:

* 30 year olds today are only half as likely to own their home as baby boomers,

* Young people are four times as likely to rent privately than two generations ago,

* Housing costs and rents absorb a larger share of family income.

With home ownership often out of reach, and options in the social rented sector constrained, 30% of millennials still share a home either with their parents or others to whom they are not partnered at age 30, compared to just 16% of baby boomers at the same age.

Many more houses are needed to combat the housing shortage. The government has a target of increasing the English housing supply by 300,000 units a year. But achieving this is another matter: since 1946, there have only been six years in which 300,000 homes or more were built. If we want to build at scale again the state must take a pro-active role.

It is not just the costs of private renting and house prices that need state control. Housing Associations, while retaining their charitable status, have become profit-seeking businesses which sell off their more expensive housing stock and pay their CEOs huge salaries. Empty properties need tackling: BBC figures, from 276 local councils, reveal more than 216,000 homes which have been empty for six months or more.

Building new council houses would cost, but this would soon be offset by savings on housing benefit. Over 1.7 million people pay over one third of their annual salary in rent to private landlords and £20 billion a year of taxpayers’ money goes in housing benefits payments to plug the gap between housing costs and household incomes. If more people lived in council accommodation and rent controls on private properties were introduced then the housing benefits bill would be greatly reduced.

Labour’s current housing policies are contained in the 2017 election manifesto, the current housing green paper and the composite motion on housing passed at the 2018 Conference. We need to be bolder about council house building, introducing rent controls and making Housing Associations more accountable.

Model Motion

This Branch/CLP notes the dire state of housing in the UK which causes insecurity and untold suffering (both financially and emotionally) to millions of people in the UK. In order to tackle housing issues on three levels (council housing, Housing Associations and properties for private renting), this Branch/CLP demands that the following ten actions be completed by a Labour Government.

1) Labour should commit to building and/or acquiring 500,000 green council homes by the end of its first Parliament and a million council homes within a 10 year period.

2) No companies which use black-listing agencies or methods shall be employed by councils.

3) Future government and council funding to social landlords for new affordable homes will be based on improvements in transparency and management in their organisations. All Housing Associations and their sub-contractors will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

4) Legislation will be passed to ensure that current Fire Risk Assessments (FRA) must be supplied by Housing Associations to Tenants Residents Associations (TRAs) and that future FRAs on all properties are enforced by a statutory body.

5) All council, Housing Association and private high-rise flats must be fitted with sprinkler systems.

6) The government’s regulatory framework for social housing will be strengthened, repealing the deregulatory measures of successive governments, and the Regulator of Social Housing’s powers to intervene with underperforming landlords will be strengthened.

7) Rent controls should be introduced in order to reduce (year by year over the first term of Parliament) the price of renting to 30% of the lower quartile of average UK earnings for all Housing Association properties and properties of private landlords valued at less than £1 million.

8) Councils will be given powers to compulsorily purchase properties that have been empty for nine months or more and/or charge a 1000% council tax charge on such properties.

9) Legislation will be passed to enable leaseholders to buy the freehold for their property more easily and at reasonable rates.

10) Legislation will be passed to ensure indefinite tenancies for all renters (as is practised in Scotland).

Pass this motion and for inclusion in the current green paper on housing, send it to socialhousingreview@labour.org.uk and copy to Jeremy Corbyn leader@labour.org.uk, John McDonnell mcdonnellj@parliament.uk and John Healey (Shadow Minister for Housing john.healey.mp@parliament.uk) Send also to the Nation Policy Forum (https://www.policyforum.labour.org.uk/commissions/housing-transport ) The deadline for submissions is 30 June 2019.

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