Wednesday 19 September 2018

House Rules

Thatcherism died today. It is now as dead as Blairism. Margaret Thatcher's assault on council housing had been the one thing that her supporters had still felt able to defend unconditionally.

But in reality, it created the Housing Benefit racket, and it used the gigantic gifting of capital assets by the State to enable the beneficiaries to enter the property market ahead of private tenants, or of people still living at home, who in either case had saved for their deposits.

What, exactly, was or is conservative or Tory about that? Or about moving in the characters from Shameless either alongside, or even in place of, the respectable working class?

As recently as 1980, what is now a breathtaking 20 per cent of the richest tenth of the population lived in social housing. I have never been rich, but I have certainly always been middle-class, and I did live, albeit briefly, in a council house in the early 1980s. In, for local readers, Burnhope.

Now, after three decades of selling off the stock and of not building any more, the stringent criteria for new tenants effectively guarantee a large number of single mothers of dependent children who are thus unable to work full-time, if at all, and of people newly released from prison or newly discharged from psychiatric institutions.

In central and local government until 1979, the Conservatives used to take housing at least as seriously as anyone else did. But since 1997, even Labour in government has failed miserably on this issue. 

We need a minimum of 100,000 new homes every year for at least 10 years, including council homes with an end to the Right to Buy, with the capital receipts from council house sales released in order to build more council housing, and with councils empowered to borrow to that end.

We need a minimum of 50 per cent of any new development to be dedicated to affordable housing, with affordability defined as 50 per cent of average rents. We need rent controls. We need action against the buying up of property by foreign investors in order to leave it empty.

And we need a statutory requirement of planning permission for change of use if it were proposed to turn a primary dwelling into a secondary dwelling, a working family home into a weekend or holiday home. That would set the pattern for the empowerment of the rural working class, assisted by the Land Value Tax.

As Prime Minister, either Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn would face strong opposition to this from the Thatcherite or Blairite Undead.

Another hung Parliament is coming, however, and our people need to hold the balance of power in it. My crowdfunding page is here, or email for other options. That address accepts PayPal.

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