Telegraph: housing crisis is the scandal of our age
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Fri Dec 14 00:37:37 GMT 2012
Britains monumental housing crisis is the scandal of our age
The dearth of cheap homes will be a key election
issue for both Labour and the Tories
Moving tale: millions of people, especially the
young, are realising that their hopes of buying
their own home will be unfulfilled, perhaps forever Photo: PA
By Mary Riddell - 7:56PM GMT 11 Dec 2012 - 914 Comments !!
Abu Qatada has moved on. Reports that the Muslim
cleric has been given a new home, courtesy of the
taxpayer, have provoked outrage. As the Tory MP
Priti Patel puts it: Its disgraceful when there
are almost two million families on waiting lists.
Despite predictable anger at Britains least
welcome house guest getting so much as a free
jelly bean from the state, let alone a
comfortable residence, Ms Patels statistic
implies a greater problem. Homelessness has risen
by more than a quarter in three years, with the
number of families forced to live in B&Bs, often
in conditions reminiscent of the Dickensian
workhouse, up by 57 per cent in the past 12
months. Many of those languishing on Ms Patels
lists wait for a home much as Vladimir and
Estragon, the protagonists of Samuel Becketts
absurdist play, waited for the non-arrival of Godot.
On Shelters estimate, 75,000 children will wake
up on Christmas Day without a home. This is not,
however, a hard luck story about the poor.
Millions of young people are now realising that
their hopes of buying their own homes will be unfulfilled, perhaps for ever.
Stagnant wages, rocketing property costs and a
mortgage moratorium mean the average first-time
buyer in London is now 37. Census figures
published yesterday show that house-building fell
by four per cent between 2001 and 2011, while the
numbers renting from private landlords rose from
nine to 15 per cent. Such shifts make housing the
ultimate one-nation issue. The young professional
living in a childhood bedroom has a link, albeit
distant, to the human bundle swaddled in
cardboard and sleeping in a frozen underpass.
Neither can envisage owning, or in some cases
even renting, a home of their own.
The central problem is too little building. If
the trends of the past two decades continue, then
demand for housing will outstrip supply by
750,000 homes by 2025, according to a new report
by the Institute for Public Policy Research. Of
the 88 per cent of 18- to 30-year-olds who told
the institute that they hoped to own their own
home within 10 years, the majority will see their hopes thwarted.
Miller to be investigated by watchdog over expenses 13 Dec 2012
Home ownership hits lowest level in 24 years 16 Nov 2012
Companies buy-up £5.6bn of London homes 04 Dec 2012
Mansion tax will 'stifle investment' 01 Dec 2012
New housing taxes will deter key investments 01 Dec 2012
UK mortgage approvals hit 10-month high 29 Nov 2012
At the far end of the spectrum lie those whose
only permanent address is likely to be Desolation
Row. Their chances just got worse with the
signal, in the Chancellors Autumn Statement, of
the breaking of the historic link between the
cost of renting and housing benefits. Housing
allowance, the benefit paid direct to landlords,
would be increased by 2.2 per cent in April and
be capped at one per cent in subsequent years.
Arcane laws stipulating that vagabonds be
commanded to avoid the town will be rehashed,
with a churn of homeless families moved to the
cheapest areas, irrespective of whether there is
any work. New strictures to be introduced in
April include a cap of £500 a week on all
benefits, housing included. While the focus has
been on the (very few) supposed welfare oligarchs
living in expensive inner London, the real
financial scandal has gone unnoticed.
As one shadow minister, Karen Buck, points out,
recent government forecasts predicted that £35
billion would be spent subsidising private rents
between 2011 and 2015, meaning the taxpayer will
pay £12 billion more on supporting low-income
households renting in the private sector than in
the preceding four-year period.
Whatever small savings come from welfare
crackdowns, the only winners will be the private
landlords now demanding extortionate rents from
benefit claimants and from young people forced to
shelve any idea of buying their own homes. This
week, Labour promised, as part of its policy
review, to consult on forcing landlords to give
longer tenancies and predictable rents.
The question is why since the state is picking
up much of the tab it should not revert to the
old practice of forcing modern Rachmans to cap
their rent at reasonable levels. The wider
problem, which Labour should have done far more
to rectify when it was in office, is the dearth of affordable social housing.
All parties are scurrying to remedy that deficit.
George Osborne promised 120,000 new homes in the
Autumn Statement, and the housing minister, Mark
Prisk, insists that the Government is pulling
out all the stops to get Britain building and
deliver the homes the country needs. Belatedly,
the Tories have realised that, with a crisis
imminent, the only shovel-ready project risks being their own grave.
But even if you leave aside the dead hand of
recession, there is little consensus on what is
needed. Nick Boles, the planning minister, last
week attracted criticism for a plan that
neglected brownfield sites and the 400,000 fallow
plots that already have planning permission. By
blaming Labours immigration policy (while
forgetting to mention that immigrants also pay
their taxes and benefit the economy), Mr Boles
appeared to advocate diminishing both the green
belt and good community relations.
Although Ed Balls has done his best to compel
colleagues to back more social housing, the
shadow housing minister, Jack Dromey, admits that
housing has not been sufficiently centre-stage
for a very long time. It will, he promises, be a
key election issue for Labour, which looks
unwilling to buy the myth that hacking benefits
offers even a partial answer. Ed Milibands
refusal to say whether he will vote against the
plan to cap welfare payments to 1 per cent is
almost certainly based on a reluctance to play
into the hands of a cunning Chancellor who is
likely to tweak his proposals to set a trap for
Labour once he knows their intentions.
If the proposal, as outlined in the Autumn
Statement, is unchanged, I understand that Mr
Miliband will refuse to back it. Mr Balls said as
much at Treasury questions yesterday. It is not
only shabby but self-defeating for Labour
doubters to say there are no votes in courting
the poor when housing offers an example of a blight uniting all classes.
Even those unlikely to join the 2,200 people who
sleep rough in the streets a rise of one fifth
in a year are sucked into a world of blight, in
which rising rents and rising damp are symptoms
of a deeper malaise. Some young people who talked
to the Institute for Public Policy Research spoke
of how they were deferring getting married or
having children; others said they had no sense of
belonging or commitment to the area in which they
lived. These are not the vagrants of tomorrow but
the bank managers, the teachers and the potential
backbone of the communities that bind Britain together.
Like the houses and flats that Generation Rent
cannot and may never afford, that sense of
belonging is beyond price. If it is to be
restored, then rents must be brought down and
investment shifted from welfare (and the pockets
of unscrupulous landlords) into building the
homes that Britain needs so desperately.
As the festive season begins, remember the new
homeless and forget the wedge being falsely
driven between strivers and supposed scroungers.
Those who cannot find a job, the working poor and
a generation who once dreamed that success meant
stability are all discovering, as Christmas
approaches, that there is no room at the inn.
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Twitter: @TonyGosling http://twitter.com/tonygosling
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"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."
"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic
poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
Fear not therefore: for there is nothing covered
that shall not be revealed; and nothing hid that
shall not be made known. What I tell you in
darkness, that speak ye in the light and what ye
hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:26-27
Die Pride and Envie; Flesh, take the poor's advice.
Covetousnesse be gon: Come, Truth and Love arise.
Patience take the Crown; throw Anger out of dores:
Cast out Hypocrisie and Lust, which follows whores:
Then England sit in rest; Thy sorrows will have end;
Thy Sons will live in peace, and each will be a friend.
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