Jeremy Corbyn: Roofs over our heads

Tony Gosling tony at
Fri Jun 8 12:14:18 BST 2012

Roofs over our heads
Thursday 07 June 2012 - Morning Star - by Jeremy Corbyn
Disraeli once declared that he wanted to make Britain a 
"property-owning democracy," but in today's Britain fewer and fewer 
people now own their own homes.
Despite successive government's long-term policies of encouraging 
home ownership, the figures are falling - from a high of 70 per cent 
of all occupations to below 60. In parts of London it is now below 30 
per cent.
This state encouragement of property ownership and banks' promotion 
of establishing "property portfolios" has led to disaster for many people.
Their homes have been repossessed or tenants of absentee landlords 
have become a victim of somebody else's inability to pay a mortgage.
The whole policy was predicated on ever-rising property prices. This 
in turn would fuel further development - or so the market theory goes.
But things came crashing down with the collapse of the two big 
popular US mortgage companies Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in 2008.
The contagion spread across the Western world as banks found 
themselves exposed to "toxic assets" - a strange term to describe 
somebody's home that had been mis-sold, overvalued and then repossessed.
The misery of repossession is still going on. Witness the grim grey 
steel sheets covering the windows of serviceable homes as the 
bailiffs move in, evict the residents and prepare the place for auction.
The vultures then descend to buy these properties for let on the open 
market or even keep them empty as "land banking" against future price rises.
But it doesn't have to be like this. From the end of 1945 until the 
Tory election victory of 1979 there was a general consensus of 
large-scale provision of council housing, with rent control in much 
of the private sector, particularly under the Wilson governments of 
1964 and and 1974.
Policies were introduced to enforce environmental standards and 
provide tenant protection.
When the Tories were elected in 1979 they quickly abolished rent 
control, set huge discounts on sales of council properties and 
retained the tax relief on mortgages which was effectively a huge 
subsidy for home ownership.
The subsequent tragedy was the limited housing policies in the first 
10 years of the 1997 Labour government.
It did do some good work in dealing with the huge backlog of repairs 
to council properties and it quite rightly supported the Decent Homes 
Standard programme.
But it was only in the latter days of the government that rising 
homelessness, desperate overcrowding and rapidly rising rents in the 
private sector eventually forced it in the direction of building 
council homes. Too little, too late.
The Tories and their Lib Dem conspirators over the last two years 
have taken over where Thatcher left off - resolutely refusing to look 
at the real cause of the huge housing benefit bill, namely 
astronomical private-sector rents. They have instead punished the tenants.
By capping housing benefit to well below rent levels, the government 
is pursuing a vile policy of social cleansing in expensive areas of 
all our big cities and some rural areas where tenants have to make 
way for the second homes and holiday lets of the wealthy.
The benefit cap means that once the meagre "transitional payment" 
budgets have been exhausted, the tenants are forced to approach the 
local authority, which may attempt to negotiate - usually 
unsuccessfully - with the landlord to limit their rent demand to the 
benefit cap. If this fails they will be forced to move to a cheaper area.
The effects are devastating on families, and communities.
In my own area of London families are often required undertake 
lengthy journeys to ensure their children remain in the same school, 
against the hope that one day there will be a council flat offered to 
them in their own neighbourhood.
Behind this brutality is the thinking that "the market" should 
dominate all and our values should be set by market forces and not 
social needs.
The rent policies of the last government did envisage a long-term 
rise in council rents, but also an ability to develop new homes.
The Tories have turned all this on its head. They say that all local 
authorities and housing associations should charge 80 per cent of 
"market value" for their rents and that this should subsidise and new 
They also, rather bizarrely, have asserted that any council dwelling 
sold at a huge discount should be replaced, though quite how they 
have never explained.
To their credit, most Labour councils have refused to raise rents to 
the magic 80 per cent, but that throws any development strategy into jeopardy.
The Tories have set themselves up as fanatical followers of the 
fabled market, devoid of social concerns or beliefs - and the victims 
are to be seen everywhere.
Children in overcrowded council homes with no hope of transfer, adult 
children never being able to leave their parents' home, those on 
benefit living in sub-standard private rented properties at excessive 
rents and many young people in work with no access to benefits paying 
up to half their take-home pay in rent and who are unable to save to 
buy if that is what they wish.
It is time for a much more radical approach by Labour - first to 
assert social not market values and to recognise that the welfare 
state extends to the provision of housing for all.
Second to assert the necessity and value of council housing, not as a 
home of last resort but a good-quality way of providing that basic 
necessity of life - a roof over one's head.
Third, to challenge the power of the private rented sector and 
enforce environmental and public health conditions, security of 
tenure and regulated rents.
The absurdity of market solutions can be seen every day - boarded up 
properties while there are homeless people, unemployed building 
workers while new homes are needed, excessive rents rising in a 
recession and all on the back of a deliberately created shortage of homes.
The victims are left homeless, ill and underachieving in school. We 
are all the losers.
Jeremy Corbyn is Labour MP for Islington North.
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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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