Socialist Worker

Don't trust Theresa May’s housing pledge - demand new council homes

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2625

Theresa May has tried to dance around the issue

Theresa May has tried to dance around the issue (Pic: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency/Flickr)

Theresa May announced last week that she was removing the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) borrowing cap for local authorities.

It’s a significant move, and one which campaigners have fought for and councils have called for repeatedly.

It’s also a sign of just how bad the housing crisis has become and exposes the inability of the private sector to build the homes that are needed.

The HRA is the pot of money made up from council rents and service charges. It acts as a separate body from councils.

Local authorities can borrow money from the HRA to build new council houses.

But since 2012 they have faced limits on how much they can borrow against the value of their existing housing stock.


Now those limits are removed. Some commentators have estimated lifting the cap could result in more than 100,000 new council homes being built.

But the Tories can’t be trusted.

In a statement after May’s speech the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said, “The cap will be lifted as soon as possible, with further details confirmed in the Budget.”

Those details could be crucial—what conditions will now be attached on council borrowing?

There are plenty of other Tory blocks on building council housing.

For example, the Tories’ Right to Buy policy holds back councils that want to build council houses.

Councils only keep 75 percent of the revenue from selloffs, and of that money they can only use a third towards the cost of building new council housing.

This means housing being sold off is not being replaced.

Council still fails to house victims of Grenfell disaster

Tory-run Kensington and Chelsea lead councillor for housing Kim Taylor-Smith has claimed the council is looking into requisitioning homes in the borough for people displaced by the Grenfell Tower fire.

It’s unlikely to happen.

Taylor-Smith said he has written to central government to request changes to the use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders.

Currently the orders are limited to buildings where there has been evidence of vandalism.

Taylor-Smith’s intervention comes as it was revealed the council has spent

£30 million on hotels for people waiting to be rehoused.

The Tories will not move to penalise landlords or people with multiple homes.

Making his position clear Taylor-Smith said, “Owners should not lose out.”

Landlords and the rich should have their empty houses taken off them to house the homeless.

Fire survivors give evidence

Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire have begun giving evidence to the public inquiry into the fire.

They have revealed a litany of failures on the part of the Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) responsible for the block’s maintenance.

Antonio Roncolato described how the TMO ignored the demands of residents.

“Those residents who did not speak up were bullied into having the new boiler installed in the hallway,” he said. This was seen as a safety risk.

Grenfell Silent Walk—Sunday 14 October, 7pm, assemble Notting Hill Methodist Church, London. Go to Grenfell Tower—Silent Walk on Facebook

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