Socialist Worker

Tory reforms make our shoddy housing even shoddier

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2526

Wreckers finish off the Heygate council estate in south London after years of running it down

Wreckers finish off the Heygate council estate in south London after years of running it down (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Four in ten homes in Britain are either too expensive, too cramped or too shabby to live in, according to housing charity Shelter.

Its Living Home Standard report, released this week, rates housing on five criteria—affordability, condition, space, stability and neighbourhood.

It found 40 percent of housing to be inadequate. Some 73 percent of this is in London.

The report found that privately rented housing tends to be the most unaffordable.

This won’t come as a surprise to private tenants who pay an average of 40 percent of their wages on rent.

“There’s all sort of things to pay for, school costs and so on,” said Lou, one of the people interviewed for the report.

“I’m so angry about it all, and so disappointed that even when I work so hard I still find it hard just to make ends meet.”

The research behind the report, carried out by polling company Ipsos Mori, is based on the idea of a standard for housing similar to the Living Wage standard for pay.

It clearly shows that housing in Britain is in a deep crisis.

The report found that 68 percent of local authority housing doesn’t meet its standards. The percentage of homes owned outright by their occupiers or through mortgages that are inadequate, though still significant, is smaller.

At first glance this could seem to back up the Tories’ argument for more privately-owned housing. But it is really down to the systematic underfunding which many council estates have seen.

When a council seeks to knock down an estate, it can deliberately run it down. This makes people less likely to want tenancies there, and drives down house prices so leaseholders can be bought off more cheaply.

The Housing and Planning Act is set to come into effect in April 2017.

It will increase the council house selloff and allow housing associations to implement the disastrous Right to Buy policy.

The Shelter report rightly condemns the shocking state of housing in Britain today.

It is the Tories in government, their mates in private building and property firms and the councils pushing through redevelopments who are to blame.

The only solution is to fight them and their plans—and to demand not more private ownership but secure, well maintained council housing.

Come to the Axe the Housing Act summit on Saturday 22 October, 11.30am, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London, WC1H 9BD

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