Socialist Worker

We need more than warm words to deal with the housing crisis, Mr Brown

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2060

Gordon Brown has promised three million new homes by the end of 2020.

While the new targets represent just an extra 250,000 new homes over and above previous plans, the key question is who builds them and for whom.

Council tenant activists are concerned that the plans will mean councils gifting valuable public land to public/private partnerships in exchange for a few token council homes in “mixed developments”, while the government turns its back on existing council homes and estates.

Brown has also announced attempts to speed up the planning system.

Yet the Royal Town Planning Institute last month revealed that the top ten development firms control, between them, enough land with existing planning permission for nearly 225,000 homes.

Brown’s plans to introduce a land tax on the profits of developers are unclear.

The government is vacillating under pressure from lobbyists around changes to the taxation of land speculation.

The current system of land regulations for housebuilding have long been accused of lacking transparency and fostering corruption.

Brown used the Labour Party national policy forum meeting on Saturday of last week to talk up the role of local authorities in his plans.

Alan Walter, chair of Defend Council Housing (DCH), responded to Brown at the DCH annual conference. “We now want to see evidence that Brown is really listening and not just manoeuvring to buy more time to drive through another wave of privatisation schemes,” he said.

“The campaign has formulated five clear demands and we’re not now about to settle for warm words or be sold a pup.

“The fact is that the private sector has historically failed to provide the homes people need at a price they can afford – and there is no reason to believe that they will deliver today.

“We’ve no problem with people being home owners if that’s what they want. What we object to is billions of pounds being taken from council housing, denying tenants improvements to our homes and estates.

“This robbery has been a national scandal. It must stop now. A small fraction of the proceeds from council housing would enable councils to improve their homes and estates. Our message to the government is simple – invest in council housing.”

DCH’s demands are:

  • Enable local authorities to improve all existing council homes and estates.
  • Allow local authorities to start new council house building programmes.
  • Ensure that local authorities have sufficient revenue to maintain all council homes in future years.
  • Draw up detailed proposals and a clearly defined timetable for implementation of the changes.
  • An immediate moratorium on any further transfers, PFI or Almos, demolition schemes or sale of council land and properties, until the new options have been formulated. Tenants must have real choice.

DCH is calling for tenants and union organisations to back the five demands, and to get councillors to issue a press statement backing the demands.

For more information go to » www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk

Go to XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX for a report of the DCH annual conference


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