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Green paper plans mass privatisation

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Issue 1691

Green paper plans mass privatisation

THE government unveiled its plans for the future of housing on Tuesday in its green paper. Government spin focused on claims the plans would help workers buy homes in areas like London and the South East where rents and house prices have soared. But the real thrust of the green paper lies elsewhere.

If the plans go ahead, the next decade will see all remaining council homes transferred to landlords operating as businesses. The green paper talks of “the transfer of up to 200,000 homes each year from local authorities”.

Councils have been starved of the cash needed to repair existing homes or to build new homes. Instead of giving councils the money they need New Labour has already been pushing them to transfer homes to private landlords. In the last three years over 200,000 council homes have been privatised. The green paper signals the government’s intention to massively accelerate that process. Some proposals are designed to smooth over opposition to such mass privatisation. So the government suggests that some councils may be allowed to set up their own “arms length” housing companies to take over homes. But such companies would still operate in the money markets.

Rents will still soar, as both private landlords and any “arms length” companies will still have to pay back City investors from tenants’ rents. The government claims it does not have the money to fund council house building. This is a lie. It is ready to write off some 12 billion in councils’ housing debts-but only if they transfer homes to private housing companies. It has also accumulated 12 billion more from forcing council tenants, unlike anyone else, to pay twice over towards Housing Benefit.

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