Acrimony in the UK: Housing privatisation, the property-speculation bonanza & land ownership

Mark mark at
Tue Mar 6 15:11:47 GMT 2007

A response (below) to the article "Acrimony in the UK: Housing
privatisation, the property-speculation bonanza & land ownership", from
Dave Bangs - campaigner with Defend Council Housing in Brighton, where 77%
of tenants just rejected privatisation of their housing. Dave corrects
some of the points Keith Parkin and I incorrectly made about council
housing and it's quality.

In part to summarise what he said, I now appreciate that some of what we
wrote is wrongheaded, especially where we said "it may have been
acceptable if the money had been ploughed back into social housing" -
since as Dave correctly pointed out, the original housing was sold at huge
discount, so the state therefore never received anything like the market
value for homes sold.

Also wrong headed was where we said, "council housing should be in the
hands of the tenants, not-for-profit companies, run by the tenants for the
tenants. To argue for anything less, would be perverse, as it would keep
council housing in the hands of the very people who are doing their best
to stitch up their tenants." Dave is right that the point of DCH is to
defend the structure of state owned assets, which we have not defended
strongly enough in this article. The article does not defend enough the
principle of, as you identify, state housing as a "tremendous gain for the
class and a central plank of the post-war social settlement". I now
appreciate that saying "generally speaking tenants are reluctant to invest
money in something that is not theirs" is an oversimplication, and that
saying "no-one would dispute that council housing is bad" was 'plain
wrong' as he says.

Re: Housing Coops, read dave comments where he says "There is no
virtue in council tenants being their own landlords within a capitalist
economy" and "It is not 'politicisation' that you get from most of these
participation structures but incorporation. [In Brighton], we have had to
fight tooth and nail against many local tenants 'leaders' who have been so
entangled in the council's participation structures that they have totally
bought their propaganda for privatisation, blocking and stamping on their
own tenants plain opposition to that project".

Subject: Re: Acrimony in the UK: Housing privatisation, social cleansing, 
   the property-speculation bonanza & land ownership
From:    "davidbangs" <davidbangs at>
Date:    Fri, March 2, 2007 1:57 am
To:      "Mark" <mark at>

Dear all
Thank you for your article. I agree completely with your passion against
privatisation and learnt much from the information this piece contains.
Well done. However, some of the detail on the issue of council housing is
plain wrong.

Your notion that the Right To Buy "may have been acceptable if the money
had been ploughed back into social housing" is utopian and mis-directed.
Council housing is sold under the RTB at very heavy discounts and the
therefore never received anything like the market value for homes sold. Yet
they would have had to acquire new replacement houses or build them at full
market land values, building costs and so on. What was sold would never
have been equalled by what was acquired.

More importantly, your statement begs the real question of whether it is
correct for individuals to purchase a socially-owned asset. Far more
important is the issue of democratic management. There are many options for
tenants having more control over their homes which do not undermine the
public and social property form.  The alternatives are not private
ownership or bureaucratic council management. The real alternative is
DEMOCRATIC social ownership AND MORE OF IT - and I am not talking about
free-standing co-ops or housing associations, but forms of democratised
control of state-owned resources.

I hope your refereence to the "stranglehold" that local authorities had on
housing was just a sloppy formulation. It is such a negative word - just
the kind of word Thatcher or David Cameron use. Local authority council
house building has been overwhelmingly positive. It secured (and still
secures) a major fraction of the working class against the madness &
misery of the housing market. It is not socialist housing, but an
ameliorative reform within capitalism, but, for all that, it has been a
tremendous gain for the class and a central plank of the post-war social
democratic settlement. Do not use the language of our sworn enemies. It is
not helpful.

Your statement that "generally speaking tenants are reluctant to invest
money in something that is not theirs" does not reflect reality. Many
tenants are too poor to be able to invest anything, and are hard put to
cover the simplest necessities of life on their incomes. However, many
tenants DO invest heavily in their council homes - installing new kitchens,
bathrooms, staircases, small extensions, parking bays, beautifully
personalised and customised communal areas, such as hallways and
landings...and so on. These are things the councils should do, but the
councils starvation of funds does not mean that tenants cease to love and
improve their homes as far as they can. Tenants value and are committed to
their council homes and the estates within which they mostly lie. Only in
the face of the most drastic infrastructural under-investment do many of
them withdraw their commitment to their homes and neighbourhoods.

Your statement that "no-one would dispute that council housing is bad" is
just plain wrong. Portions of the national estate are bad, indeed. But many
portions are OK, many are so-so, and many are still EXCELLENT and getting
better. One of the saddest  sights in our local debate over the Brighton
stock transfer proposal was the Labour Chair of Housing consistently
running down his own department, describing his own department's
management as bad, the stock as poor...and these as solid reasons for
privatisation. Much council housing is absolutely marvellous and I have
seen many places not just in Brighton but in neighbouring authorities
where I would love to spend the last half of my life. Don't run down the
achievement or the present reality of council housing. Leave that to New
Labour and the New Tories.

You are wrong when you say that only "in some areas of the country" have
tenants voted 'no' to privatisation, implying that the majority of council
housing has now been transferred. In fact the bulk of council housing is
still council-owned. The majority of the transferred stock is in rural,
suburban, and small town local authority areas. Whilst there have been some
major inner-city transfers (like Glasgow) a greater part of the large urban
authorities have opted for the ALMO form or stock retention. This is bad,
indeed, but it is reversible, and many of the ALMO councils created those
management bodies as a tactical move to secure funding without privatising
the stock. Many of those councils, having now progressed towards the Decent
Homes Standard, now want managemnt of their council housing back. There is
plenty of room for joint work between stock retention tenants & councillors
and ALMO tenants and councillors to campaign for the 4th Option of direct
investment and council control. The number of stock retention and ALMO
councils and areas is, I believe, 203 and sharply rising as the other areas
which have not yet chosen ballot.

It is not true that "the main bone of contention with housing associations
has been the lack of democratic control or redress". Sure, that is
important. But the main issue is that housing associations are private
corporations operating within the market. They raise their money on the
private finance market at private sector interest rates against the
security of their stock. That means that the banks are their real owners.
They buy and sell their assets (peoples homes) to raise money for new
capital projects. Their management culture is a business culture and their
trajectory is towards more normal business practices - with lobbying for
the right to issue share flotations (and therefore dividends),
super-executive salaries, dodgy private sector partnerships...and the
rest. Council housing, as part of the state, is separated from market
conditions (though neo-liberal government want to marketise it, of course)
and can have a rental regime and management values which - even with
stifling bureaucracy - are worlds away from the new world we are being
driven towards.

Your statement that "council housing should be in the hands of the tenants,
not for profit companies, run by the tenants for the tenants" shows you
have not understood the core issues. Council housing, in fact, should be
owned by the WHOLE community, not just tenants, for all of us might need
it at some stage of our lives, just as we will need NHS hospitals and free
education. In fact, exactly such statements as yours appeared time and
time again in our council's propaganda for privatisation, offering the
carrot of tenants self management to sweeten the bitter pill of higher
rents and private sector business practices.  And your statement that
stock retention is "perverse, leaving the stock in the hands of the very
people who mismanage it" is SO wrong-headed. It is the STRUCTURES of
public ownership that we seek to defend, not the New Labour morons who
currently run it. We wish to defend public ownership AGAINST those
spineless privatisers. The campaign against privatisation is ALSO a
campaign against the neo-liberal parties which have promoted it.

One of the (minor) frustrations of our local (Brighton) campaign has been
that some of the local housing co-operators seem to have bought all the
council's nonsense about tenant empowerment, self management and all the
rest, hook line and sinker. I am an ex-member of a housing co-op myself and
believe that this form can be an important last resort, especially for
homeless single people who are excluded by waiting list criteria, but the
phillistine notion that you can have socialism (read 'anarchism', for most
of them) in one housing co-op is just nonsense. It is not 'politicisation'
that you get from most of these participation structures but incorporation.
We have had to fight tooth and nail against many local tenants 'leaders'
who have been so entangled in the council's participation structures that
they have totally bought their propaganda for privatisation, blocking and
stamping on their own tenants plain opposition to that project. There is no
virtue in council tenants being their own landlords within a capitalist
economy. That just means that, as landlords, they put up their own rents,
close services, sack staff and sell stock if the balance sheet demands it.
Real empowerment for tenants comes with strong, independent and fighting
tenants associations, federating across cities and regions and arguing for
a return to rents that reflect real costs, not bank interest or private
sector rents, programmes of new public housing, investment in existing
stock and real extensions of community services.

Defend Council Housing is not just a defensive movement. Its vision is
offensive. It wants to free people from the misery of the housing market
and rebuild major public housing provision. It leads the most successful
anti-privatisation campaign under this government. It is the biggest
nation-wide tenants mobilisation since the 1973 Housing Finance Act.
Council housing privatisation is sticking in New Labour's gullet. We need
to see that it helps choke them.

The future for the tenants movenment doesn't lie in a patchwork of co-ops
and social enterprises. That will atomise it. Rates of trade unionisation
are far lower in the 'voluntary' housing sector, and work forces and
tenants' power are fragmented and incorporated. The future for the tenants
movement lies in building a real society-wide alternative housing programme
and fighting for it.

In the run up to the next General Election the Tories will be arguing to
spread the social enterprise form (including, of course, co-ops) and they
will do it as their wedge to further undermine state provision and to
further marketise service provision. Then we will have the peculiar paradox
of anarchists and social entrepreneurs uniting with zappy neo-liberal
marketisers in a grotesque and unholy alliance.

I do not relish it.

Dave Bangs

----- Original Message -----
From: Mark <mark at>
To: <keithpp at>; <davidbangs at>;
<james36armstrong at>
Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2007 1:50 PM
Subject: Acrimony in the UK: Housing privatisation, social cleansing, the
property-speculation bonanza & land ownership

> Hi Fellas
> Here is an article largely based on stuff Keith wrote. I embellished the
> text substantially, and rewrote. Now, further embelliment has been
> provided with news of what happened in Brighton, the report into housing
> sector by Prof John Hills, and a sentence nicked from something Dave wrote
> years ago, plus a few paras from James in an article we wrote which never
> saw light of day. James also originally scribed the following set of words
> in something he wrote a couple of years ago entitled "Playing Housing
> monopoly with peoples' lives". In is in the last chapter entitled "The
> Future?", starting where it reads as follows:
> "A coterie of financial interests which consolidate the private sector
> housing sector coalese around a more entrenched protection racket which
> has existed for centuries. A small group of wealthy, powerful and
> politically entrenched people - the traditional landlords, the NFU and
> build/developers with giant land banks, maliciously spread a campaign of
> misinformation to protect their ill gained profits amounting to £billions
> annually."
> all the best,
> Acrimony in the UK:
> Housing privatisation, social cleansing, the property-speculation bonanza
> and land ownership
> By Keith Parkins and Mark S Brown  -  February 2007
> 'Tenants all round Britain are intent on defending council housing against
> a government dogmatically committed to privatisation. Decent, affordable,
> secure and accountable housing provided by the local council has served
> generations well. And contrary to myth, it pays for itself - if all the
> money it brings in is reinvested.' - Alan Walter, Defend Council Housing.
> Nearly 10 years into the New Labour project, and what is the legacy of
> Blair's Britain? Massive inequality, estimated to be at the highest level
> for forty years. Inequality by 40% between 1979 and 2001. Whilst the
> average salary for a man working full-time in the City is nearly £90,000,
> everybody else is lucky to be on £25,000. The pernicious presence of an
> underclass grows for sections of the population who are either long-term
> unemployed, in negative equity, and, particularly in London, those who may
> be described as being effectively in 'economic slavery', caught in a
> highly-inflated private rented sector, unable to afford to get onto the
> property ladder within a market where house prices are completely out of
> their reach. With the main domestic investment in the economy being
> property, an inequity of capital gains accrue to beneficiaries of the
> property bubble in a massively appreciating market. Speculation in housing
> in general is having a destabilising effect on house prices, forcing rents
> to rise to pay for profits, green space destroyed, and tenancies becoming
> less secure.
> Worse still, there is evidence that, as with privatised health services,
> mergers and acquisitions within the housing association sector is leading
> to a process of corporate consolidation. Land and housing is rapidly
> becoming in itself an international commodities market, with future
> options to be traded, such as through Real Estate Investment Trusts
> (REITs). Capital is flowing through the City of London and the other
> global equity nodes such as Tokyo and New York, and the assets of
> stakeholder networks of shareholder ownership and pension fund holders are
> invested into plundering state assets. For example, in Germany, people are
> finding public housing stock being sold off. Municipal authorities are
> happy to sell their housing, as it helps clear municipal debt. The mantra
> public debt is unacceptable, private debt is ok as it provides the
> opportunity for profit.
> From Thatcher to the Great Neo-Labour sell-off - Social housing under
> From the start of the 1980s onwards, the reduction in the amount of
> council housing stock came about because of the drive towards right-to-buy
> under Margaret Thatcher, with the offer of the sale of council houses at
> huge discounts to sitting tenants. This may have been acceptable if the
> capital released was ploughed back into social housing, but this was not
> to be. Money realised on sale was not ploughed back into social housing,
> and, because of absurd rules on the use of capital receipts and the
> less-than-value sales, councils were prevented from building new homes to
> replace those sold.
> Although promoted as giving the ordinary man a stake in society, a first
> step on the property ladder, the Thatcher policy was nothing of the sort.
> It was about destroying the stranglehold large municipal authorities had
> on housing.
> The legacy of the Thatcher policy has been record high waiting lists,
> record low new tenancies, and the run-down condition of council stock due
> to years of inadequate council financing. Across Britain, the reality is
> that council housing was deliberately run down into a state of dereliction
> beyond councils' financial capability to deal with it, to then be used to
> justify the wholesale transfer of council housing stock to the private
> sector.
> New Labour's priority since it got into power in 1997 has been to
> facilitate the transfer of housing stock to the private sector at the
> expense of council provision, to accelerate the Thatcher privatisation.
> After years of a shortfall in the building of new council housing (only
> 31,000 'affordable' homes were built in 1993-4), in order to be allowed to
> expand or improve their stock, councils were held to ransom to encourage
> the transfer of council stock into the private sector. Right across
> Britain, large-scale stock transfer has occurred, either to housing
> associations, or registered social landlords (RSLs) as they are now known,
> a friendly name that hides their ruthless capitalist face, essentially a
> private finance initiative that puts bankers in charge of the funds, or an
> Arms-Length Management Organisation (ALMO), in which although still owned
> by the council, it is no longer controlled by the council, a board  of
> unelected directors, halfway privatisation, all neatly parcelled up and
> ready for disposal.
> The government's rational for making long overdue investment conditional
> on transfer of ownership to one of these three variants of privatised
> ownership has been the same rational used to justify the 'selling-off' of
> council housing to tenants. Generally speaking, tenants are reluctant to
> invest money in something that is not theirs, especially if they are
> forced through disrepair to undertake tasks like maintenance and repair
> that are a landlord's responsibility. On the surface, this is a legitimate
> rational.
> Across the country, tenants have been given a choice in local ballots, or
> what is jokingly called a choice, on whether or not their housing is
> privatised. No one would dispute that council housing is bad, the estates
> badly managed, badly run down, a complete lack of accountability.
> Therefore it was understandable that when the first wave of ballots went
> through, tenants voted yes. Especially when tenants were promised new
> kitchens, bathrooms, etc. But tenants are not given a real choice, as they
> only hear one side of the argument.
> However, in some areas around the country, tenants voted 'no', often
> overwhelmingly no,  to keep housing within the public sector.  In
> Brighton, 77% of tenants voted no on a 62.4% turnout last week (February
> 22nd, 2007). This is the same margin of victory that was seen in Camden in
> 2004 the second time around, after being balloted twice (because they
> didn't give the council the correct vote first time around). In spite of
> the government spending £500,000 of local taxpayers money to force a yes
> vote. The hundreds of millions of pounds that were available from central
> government for modernisation, were the tenants to have voted yes, is no
> longer available.
> The campaign group Defend Council Housing has shown that there is already
> sufficient rental income coming in to make existing council housing
> self-financing and sustainable. In a document produced by the House of
> Commons council housing group, it is clear that the government effectively
> siphons off £1.5 billion from housing revenue accounts and profits by
> another £0.5 billion from preventing the use of capital receipts. This
> means that £2 billion could be spent on providing new homes and improving
> stock. Then there are also the grants the government is only too willing
> to give to the private sector, once council housing is privatised. In
> 2003-04 the government budgeted £800 million to subsidise sell-offs.
> In July 2004, the Commons Public Accounts Committee concluded that selling
> off council housing costs the taxpayer at least £1,300 a home more than
> council doing the improvements. In other words it is dogma driving the
> process, not pragmatism.
> The big trade unions pushed through policy recommendation at the Labour
> Party's National Policy Forum for recognition of the 'Fourth Option' of
> council housing, where the housing would remain under council control, a
> policy which has been repeatedly ratified at the Party Conference.
> However, New Labour has refused to include what the grass roots wants in
> its Party Manifesto, backtracking on a commitment and going against the
> wishes of its own members. Labour Party Conference has so far ratified
> this policy three times.
> Professor John Hills published his 'Ends & Means' report on 20th February,
> on the role of social housing, disappointing the Communities Secretary of
> State Ruth Kelly, in recognising the role of public housing in providing
> decent, affordable and secure housing. Mrs Kelly had anticipated Professor
> Hills to back her recent annoucement that means testing and the ending of
> long-term secure tenancies become new policy.
> Social cleansing across the UK
> The rot that set in under Thatcher has escalated under Neo-Labour,
> destroying what little is left of social housing. Not satisfied with the
> damage to date to social housing - starving councils of funding, forcing
> tenants into the private sector - New Labour had a few more wacky
> Thatcherite ideas in the pipeline as part of a package of reforms taken up
> by housing associations, RSLs and ALMOs, such as tenants being given
> fixed-term contracts, possibly as short as five years.
> The main bone of contention with privatisation has been the lack of
> democratic control or proper redress for tenants in disputes with housing
> associations - the continuing worry in all these schemes. The threat to
> tenants' rights include the tendency of council tenants' secure tenancies
> being replaced with less secure 'assured' tenancies, making eviction
> easier. Rents are, on average, 17% higher than council rents. Tenants have
> no automatic right to representation on a Housing Association board of
> management, and tenant board members are often excluded from
> decision-making. And even where tenants are represented on boards, it is
> often not the tenants who choose who their representatives will be, and
> the tenants who do sit on the board are gagged by secrecy, legally have to
> act for the organisation not the tenants, or in other words tokinism.
> Council housing often sits on expensive real estate. It is proposed that
> councils relocate their tenants, no doubt to a less desirable part of
> town, 'liberating' profitable land upon which the housing stands.
> Relocation from prime real estate is already happening. Sixteen of the
> London local authorities have been offering tenants anything up to £30,000
> to leave their homes. It was the forced removal of some of Newcastle's
> poorest people so that the land could be redeveloped as luxury yuppie
> apartments that did for neo-Labour in Newcastle, as has happened in
> Liverpool, where whole swathes of social housing is being cleared. In
> London, squatters held out on the Pepys Estate, holding up plans to sell
> off land on the banks of the Thames overlooking Canary Wharf for yuppie
> apartments.
> In Farnborough in Hampshire, Pavilion Housing Association tenants are
> being forced out of their homes to enable them to be bulldozed to make way
> for a car park for an unwanted superstore. Their homes are in an appalling
> state of repair to help to encourage them to leave. Currently in
> maisonettes surrounded by a grassy area where the children can safely
> play, they are to be relocated to two blocks of flats. The tenants were
> not asked if they wished to leave. Meanwhile, early this year, the local
> council gave away £195,000 to Pavilion to ensure properties in their
> possession previously let to students are kept low-rent having been
> transferred to the pivate rented sector - a job that they should already
> be doing as a housing association!
> The pathfinder programme and the situation in Liverpool
> In Liverpool, Pathfinder - a New Labour/John Prescott pet project - is
> responsible for swathes of Victorian housing  (tens of thousands of homes)
> being destroyed in the name of urban regeneration. It would cost far less
> to renovate the existing housing, than new build, and would provide better
> quality housing, but that would not provide development opportunities for
> developers. And that is what Pathfinder is all about, development
> opportunities for developers and helping housing associations to rapidly
> expand.
> In Liverpool, home-owners are being offered paltry sums for their homes.
> If they refuse, they are served Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) and
> their homes seized. If they play ball, they are offered a housing
> association home as they are no longer in a position to get back on the
> property ladder. Private tenants are being dumped on sink estates, if they
> refuse what they are offered, they are deemed intentionally homeless.
> Local Labour MP Jane Kennedy described the plan as 'social cleansing' at
> the public inquiry that approved the plans. In a major setback to the
> plans of the consortium of housing associations, English Partnerships, the
> Housing Corporation and Liverpool Council, in September 2006 a local
> resident - Elisabeth Pascoe - successfully challenged a Compulsory
> Purchase Order on her home in the High Court in London, claiming that the
> CPO violated her Human Rights.
> Pathfinder is part of a wider trend of forcing council tenants into the
> private sector through the sale of their homes to housing associations and
> for existing housing associations through mergers and acquisitions to form
> ever larger unaccountable property conglomerates.
> Tenants have a say when they are first transfered to the private sector,
> they subsequently have no say on what happens to their homes thereafter,
> they are not even consulted.
> Mike Lane from Tenants Action Group, on the privatisation of housing in
> Liverpool:
> 'Housing is in such a bad way because the housing associations, and the
> council who own nearly 60% of the housing stock have let it fall into a
> dreadful state of repair. This has been deliberately done because the
> council wants to transfer their houses to housing associations, while they
> cash in on the 'Get-rich-quick' schemes of regeneration and the City of
> Culture. I am a tenant and I unsuccessfully attempted to get onto one of
> the five Neighbourhood Planning Groups in the New Deal Regeneration area
> of Kensington, an area which is located adjacent to the city centre, which
> is in the process of an architectural renaissance involving the Duke of
> Westminster's Grosvenor Estates in a £750m redevelopment, thanks to a
> 250-year lease on a 42.5 acre area of the city centre.'  Liverpool becomes
> European Capital of Culture in 2008.
> Hidden in the Pathfinder small print is that one of its intended outcomes
> is to increase property prices. So much for neo-Labour crocodile tears for
> those who cannot afford a decent home.
> In Liverpool, Pathfinder has caused property prices to increase four-fold.
> Good news indeed for those who have got a foothold on the property ladder.
> Meanwhile, over 1,000 city centre flats lie empty, according to Kate
> Mansey from the Liverpool Daily Post (27 December 2006).
> The ill-gotten gain of the Housing Association bonanza
> Between 1990 and 2003, £13 billion was siphoned off from tenants' rents by
> the Treasury. No small wonder there is a £19 billion backlog of repairs
> and improvements.
> When housing is transferred to a private company, that company is allowed
> to keep all the rents to spend on the homes, and is no longer required to
> support the historic debt of building them, receiving subsidy from central
> government. While the government claims that there is no money available
> for council housing, it pours billions into subsidising its privatisation
> programme. In 2004-05, the total subsidy paid out to housing associations
> amounted to £689 million, with £100m of it coming from taxpayers, the rest
> coming from tenants' rents.
> The accusation is that Housing Associations are now little more than
> property development companies. They are not restricted to 'social
> housing', and many are using this freedom to act as traditional property
> developers and speculators. The process of mergers and acquisitions within
> the sector may mean there will soon be only a handful of housing
> associations left in the country. These mergers and acquisitions are being
> forced through by the industry regulator, the Housing Corporation. For
> instance, in Hampshire, Pavilion was acquired by Eastleigh-based Atlantic
> to form First Wessex. Less than a year on, First Wessex is trying to
> acquire other housing associations.
> The underlying problem identified within Housing Associations, RSLs and
> ALMOs, is the lack of transparency, the lack of accountability and the
> lack of means of representation to decision-making regarding rental
> increases, with their social remit long forgotten. The allegation is that
> housing associations are deliberately complex structures, set up that way
> to both avoid tax and accountability. There are no shareholders, and they
> are instead managed by a board comprised of roughly one-third councillors,
> one-third tenants (usually selected by the Housing Association), and
> one-third outside business interests, which immediately means the tenants
> are a minority voice.
> Developer takes All
> "At the heart of the housing market is the availability of development
> land. A building site now constitutes between half to two-thirds of the
> cost of a new house or dwelling. As such, it is the main driver across the
> country in the price a house, especially a new house, will fetch. However,
> the market for development land is rigged", Stuart Beevor, Managing
> Director of Legal & General Property and Chairman of the Property
> Investment Forum, speaking at the Financial Times property conference in
> London on 7 July 1998. "The market is very imperfect. It proceeds on word
> of mouth and trade secrets."(Taken from "Who Owns Britain", by Kevin
> Cahill, 2001).
> Do you remember playing that game with little green houses and title deeds
> and funny money? Well while you were enjoying a game, a land owner, a
> housing contractor, a banker and an unelected politician set about drawing
> up different rules so that not they but other people who need houses would
> continually be landing on their doorstep and would pay ever increasing
> rents and property prices while the four controlled via a monopoly ALL the
> land on which houses ..etc could be built. What has been happening is that
> in the absence of any government guidance, legislation or even public
> acknowledgement, private parties who qualify as the big players with large
> financial backing are enabled to pre-empt people's housing needs,
> specifically pre-empt the decisions of the planning departments and have
> bought up the potential building land.
> The Barker Report on housing published in 2004, identified the assembly of
> land banks and "building out" sites (the slow release of land for
> housebuilding) as restricting the supply of houses. On page 81, Barker
> showed that seven named corporations hold the potential building land
> round the towns to satisfy all the nation's housing requirements for the
> next four and a half years.
> "Land is the critical factor in explaining competitive pressure in the
> housebuilding industry" p77
> "Land is in scarce supply" p77
> However, because land is not identified as a good or service, no solution
> was offered by Kate Barker regarding the market in land.  Barker did offer
> a solution to the problem of inflated land value, advocating a new
> development tax on the uplift value of the grant of planning permission,
> which is now being implemented, which is being legislated for through the
> newly legislated for Planning Gain supplement (but which worryingly
> doesn't exempt low impact development or social activities in the current
> draft).
> Now Barker's 2nd report on land use planning, published at the end of
> 2006, has extended this blueprint, advocating a fast-track planning regime
> and building houses on green belt land. It is a contuinuation of the
> legislative framework whereby a coterie of landed interests, now joined by
> financial interests increasingly investing in property, conspire to
> protect a powerbase of landed hegemony, making plentiful land look scarce,
> and being paid from the public purse to keep it that way (the urban
> population inhabits less than 8% of the surface area of the British
> Isles). The exclusive land ownership class in the UK have traditionally
> perpetuated exclusion, while bolstering the cultural power of landed
> wealth by their constant engendering of images of continuity and
> tradition, dispicting themselves as "custodians of the countryside", with
> pressure groups such as the Council for the Protection of Rural England
> long doing their bidding - painting a picture of a rural idyll on the
> verge of decimation from the dreaded threat of urban overspill. At no
> point do the CPRE recognise in their ruling class propganda the faint
> possibility that a recolonisation of the countryside is even a remote
> possibility - viewing the masses with contempt akin to a neoconservative
> agenda.
> The future?
> Transfer of housing stock to Housing Associations is, say campaigners,
> nothing less than back-door privatisation of social housing. And as with
> PFIs and PPPs, the cost to the tax payer escalates, and tenants suffer
> deteriorating services at higher costs. This has to be seen within the
> context of WTO/GATS wholesale transfer of public services to the private
> sector, where private greed overrides public need (and removes any form of
> democratic control or accountability). Of the 106 areas to be liberalised
> (ie opened up to the private sector), housing is one. All transfers of
> housing stock will be subject to open competition and could be acquired by
> international private capital. Such 'liberalisation' may even specifically
> prohibit Tenant Management Organisations, which could provide a
> democratic, accountable alternative to both housing associations and
> council housing.
> The campaign network Defend Council Housing, as the name implies, is
> opposed to the sell-off of council housing. But this should only be seen
> as a defensive position. Ultimately council housing should be in the hands
> of the tenants, not-for-profit companies, run by the tenants for the
> tenants. To argue for anything less, would be perverse, as it would keep
> council housing in the hands of the very people who are doing their best
> to stitch up their tenants. There are sequential benefits to tenants
> running their own affairs: tenants acquire confidence through running
> their own affairs, become politicised, start to challenge what is
> happening around them - benefits the corrupt ruling class would not wish
> to see.
> REITs will see increased speculation in property, a process which will
> further push up house-price inflation, as property becomes the nest-egg
> asset store which has the inadvertant side-effect on the cost of rent,
> depriving low income groups of access to housing. Particularly in the UK,
> inflated property values have become the collateral investment stores of
> wealth for a financial hub in the city of London which is recycling
> economic proceeds from investments across the world, with the proceeds
> shared through shareownership and pension funds. Rising prosperity within
> the property bubble belies the reality of  increasing economic inequality,
> and social disenfranchisment particularly of the younger generations with
> limited scope to step onto the property ladder in a vastly inflating
> property market.
> A coterie of financial interests which consolidate the private sector
> housing sector coalese around a more entrenched protection racket which
> has existed for centuries. A small group of wealthy, powerful and
> politically entrenched people - the traditional landlords, the NFU and
> build/developers with giant land banks, maliciously spread a campaign of
> misinformation to protect their ill gained profits amounting to £billions
> annually. This group long ago captured political power in parliament and
> now concentrate on manipulating their monopoly of landownership (see Kevin
> Cahill's book "Who Owns Britain?").  This coup was achieved by promoting
> advantageous laws shifting the burden of tax from land tax to income tax,
> now to council tax. This is done through securing massive state subsidies
> through agriculture, and increased land values through both EU grants and
> by manipulating the planning laws in their favour. Large developers
> exercise a monopoly on access to the planning process through an
> inordinate level of capital which, at it's most extreme level, can be used
> against council departments to push through building schemes through the
> constant threat of appeal, which councils with limited financial resources
> cannot withstand in the long run.
> The time has come for the low income sections of society to take back what
> is theirs, denied to them from when traditonal land ownership patterns
> were set with the invasion of William the Conqueror, and later, with the
> numerous acts of enclosure which served to exclude masses of people from
> the countryside.
> More immediately, and practically, we need to extend the right-to-buy to
> the private sctor, as well as protect existing council housing stock with
> a view to increasing this stock in the future. Such measures need to be
> combined with a reintroduction of  controlled rents, secure tenancies and
> punitive rating - rather than rate relief - of second homes.
> References
> Fred Harrison, Boom Bust: House Prices, Banking and the Depression of
> 2010, Shepheard-Walwyn, 2005
> Mike Lane, Whole communities will be decimated through gentrification!,
> Indymedia UK, 2 September 2004
> Mike Lane, The Regeneration Game, 2006 {DVD}
> Austin Mitchell, Labour conference backs direct investment third year in a
> row, Defend Council Housing newspaper, October/November 2006
> Sebastian Mueller, Impacts of Privatisation, September 2006 {briefing
> paper for London Social Forum housing conference}
> Keith Parkins, A sense of the masses - a manifesto for the new revolution,
>, October 2003
> Keith Parkins, Social landlords are deviating from their intended purpose,
> Indymedia UK, 20 January 2004
> Keith Parkins, Social housing landlords the new corporations, Corporate
> Watch newsletter No 17, January-February 2004
> Keith Parkins, Camden council house transfer - Camden Town Hall meeting,
> Indymedia UK, 11 February 2004
> Keith Parkins, Guildford say NO to council house transfer, Indymedia UK,
> 13 February 2004
> Keith Parkins, Registered social landlords - the new corporations,
> Indymedia UK, 18 February 2004
> Keith Parkins, Camden forced to back down, Indymedia UK, 3 July 2004
> Keith Parkins, Audit Commission savage Pavilion Housing Association,
> Indymedia UK, 27 July 2004
> Keith Parkins, Camden lashes out at opponents of council house sell off,
> Indymedia UK, 27 July 2004
> Keith Parkins, Social housing under attack, Indymedia UK, 5 August 2004
> Keith Parkins, Social housing crisis, Indymedia UK, 12 August 2004
> Keith Parkins, Privatisation of council housing, Indymedia UK, 16 August
> Keith Parkins, Social housing privatisation scam, Indymedia UK, 2 November
> 2004
> Keith Parkins, Scandal of Pepys Estate, Indymedia UK, 9 February 2005
> Keith Parkins, pathfinder schemes, Indymedia UK, 14 February 2005
> Keith Parkins, Pathfinder schemes - a path to corruption?, Indymedia UK,
> 14 March 2005
> Keith Parkins, First Wessex plan takeover of Portsmouth housing, Indymedia
> UK, 12 September 2006
> Keith Parkins, Liverpool resident halts Pathfinder programme, Indymedia
> UK, 27 September 2006
> Keith Parkins, London Social Forum - housing and land rights conference,
> Indymedia UK, 2 October 2006
> Keith Parkins, Pathfinder hits the buffer, Indymedia UK, 17 October 2006
> Keith Parkins, Housing Association Mergers, Indymedia UK, 19 October 2006
> Simon Whelan, Experts describe UK as world's  'first onshore tax haven',
> Indymedia UK,  6 January 2007
> "Who owns Britain" by Kevin Cahill, Canongate Press, 2001

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