Socialist Worker

Tests for Gordon Brown’s new housing policy

Issue No. 2059

After ten years of campaigning Defend Council Housing (DCH) activists are eagerly awaiting the government’s first green paper on housing, which was due to be published this week.

Gordon Brown has said that he will make affordable housing a priority for this year – but the government’s view of “affordable” has in the past been out of the reach of many workers.

Alan Walter, chair of Defend Council Housing, said, “We await the publication of the government’s new proposals with interest but we warn them now – we haven’t fought this hard for this long to settle for ‘warm words’ or to be sold a pup.

Programme

“Supporters of the ‘fourth option’ for council housing will measure their proposals by whether they enable local authorities to improve all existing council homes and estates, start a new council house building programme and maintain all council homes as first class housing in years to come.

“Our annual conference on Thursday of this week is perfectly timed to give the government a clear response.”

According to a report in the Independent on Friday of last week, housing minister Yvette Cooper is planning a return to council houses built by local authorities to provide affordable homes for those most in need.

One possible change is that councils might be allowed to use revenue from rents to build more council houses.

At the moment housing associations are able to raise money privately, but council spending is capped under the public sector borrowing requirement.

Repairs

Councils say this policy means that housing associations can afford repairs and improvements that councils cannot match. Any change to these rules will be welcomed by DCH.

But according to the Independent report, the green paper will also insist that arms’ length management organisations (Almos) run the new estates.

Transfer from council to Almo-run housing has recently been rejected by tenants in a number of ballots. The majority of council tenants want their local council to remain as their landlord.

There are around 1.6 million people on waiting lists for council homes today. Many of these live in former council homes – their rent paying off their landlord’s mortgage.

The proposed building of new council homes is a major step forward – but to help the millions of people who need affordable, stable and decent housing we need a massive building programme that is publicly owned and run.

DCH annual conference, Thursday 12 July, 9.30am–4.30pm, at TUC Congress House, Great Russell Street, London. Go to » www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk


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Tue 10 Jul 2007, 18:14 BST
Issue No. 2059
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