Monthly Archives: August 2015

Government collaboration can effectively address the housing crisis

tony croft stonesfield housing trust

Tony Crofts, has a noteworthy record in setting up housing  via the Stonesfield Community Trust in 1983. It now owns 15 dwellings for letting at affordable rents to young working couples, and single people of all ages, including single parents, the village Post Office and the village pre-school premises, and is celebrated as the first successful community land trust set up in Britain since Letchworth Garden City in 1903.

“The free market free-for-all in housing has failed” according to Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn. He continues, “ We need to be clear what we mean by ‘affordable’ – no longer should ‘affordable’ mean near-market levels under the doublespeak the government has promoted. Social rents in high-demand areas are typically a third to half the market rate, while so-called ‘affordable’ rents are up to 80% of private rents”.

He wrote in the Friend, 7 August 2015, “government is not going to solve the housing crisis because it clings to its market philosophy. When they talk about ‘affordable homes’, they are only talking about selling houses”. Crofts points out that a large section of the population can’t afford mortgages; what is needed is a large supply of community owned, permanently-affordable homes to rent. Housing associations were initially set up to provide decent homes for people in need, but many are developing into businesses that sell or rent at market levels. Jeremy Corbyn advocates returning them to their original purpose.

Both of criticise the Right to Buy legislation introduced in 1979 – since when over a million council houses have been sold at a discount. Corbyn points out that a third of these have ended up in the hands of buy-to-let landlords who relet them at higher rents.

He adds that even in areas of acute housing shortage there is land that has planning permission but is not being developed: “This is known as landbanking – a practice that Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson has described as ‘pernicious’. We should consider introducing a Land Value Tax on undeveloped land that has planning permission, and ‘use it or lose it’ measures on other brownfield sites, to act as a disincentive to landbanking and to raise public funds for house-building. Councils should also be allowed to compulsorily purchase (CPO) sites at a fair value if their owners are not developing them”.]

Jeremy Corbyn writes in his Housing Policy document:

jc housing cover“Over 3.5 million people in Britain live in fuel poverty. Excess winter deaths are 23% higher than in Sweden, despite our milder winters. Retrofitting homes will reduce this toll of ill-health, unnecessary deaths and avoidable carbon emissions.

“Britain needs more energy efficient housing – both in current housing stock and new build. It means ensuring all homes are properly insulated. The model for this should be the Warm Zones approach of Kirklees council (between 2007-2010) which installed loft and cavity wall insulation across the Borough, for free.

french roofs plants“We also need new incentives – and obligations – to raise housing standards in the worst parts of the private rented sector. . . Zero carbon homes should become the norm. France now requires even commercial buildings to have roofs covered in either plants or solar panels. Germany uses its equivalent of the Green Investment Bank to drive (and de-risk) high energy efficiency standards. Denmark will not accept planning applications for new buildings dependant on fossil fuels. The Netherlands requires buildings to be flood-resistant. Britain needs to future-proof its housing standards.

“As with so many other policy areas, housing requires joined up policy between government departments, working with devolved government and local councils. The free market free-for-all in housing has failed. Only the government is able to play the strategic, co-ordinating role to tackle the housing crisis.