Housing is the biggest headache affecting us all. Fewer and fewer people can afford to buy a home. Those who try find themselves deeper and deeper in debt.
Yet so far politicians have turned their backs on providing decent homes at rents ordinary people can afford.
Tony Blair’s government has followed the Tories in stopping local authorities from building council houses. They have repeated the mantra that the market will put a roof over your head.
Now Gordon Brown has indicated he will support the building of some new council homes. He told the GMB union conference on Tuesday that he will allow councils to start building “affordable” housing.
Even this falls far short of what is needed.
The contenders for the Labour deputy leadership have rushed to show support for the “fourth option” – that council tenants should be able to choose the council as their landlord, and the council should get the same benefits as housing authorities.
This has been Defend Council Housing’s (DCH) campaign for years – yet in 2004 Keith Hill, the then housing minister, said in a speech that there was “no fourth option”.
The deputy leadership candidates seem to have done a U-turn, with Hilary Benn saying the option “should be on the table”.
Alan Johnson stated councils “should be able to build additional social housing where it is needed, when residents have rejected other private or social sector solutions”.
Jon Cruddas went further arguing, “It is vital that councils are given the resources to build new houses, and maintain and invest in existing housing stock.”
There was hope that Gordon Brown would follow suit. The very fact Brown and the deputy leadership contenders are now indicating possible support for the fourth option is a success for campaigners.
But much more is needed. As Alan Walter, chair of DCH, said, “We need to turn positive soundbites into concrete proposals.”
At a DCH meeting at the GMB conference, Nick Brown, Labour’s former chief whip and a close ally of Gordon Brown, said, “This campaign is one of the most persistent in the labour movement today – and it will soon be seen to be one of the most successful.”
That requires a programme of council house building to provide decent, environmentally friendly homes for rent to all those in need.
As Gordon Brown prepares to enter 10 Downing Street we need a mass campaign to ensure decent homes for all – and an end to this market madness.