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Solutions to the Housing Crisis VIII


Glasgow council housing, 2002

A fight back program? [Series: Housing]
The fight to preserve whats' called Council housing has been a focus for groups in the UK. It is a response to similar restructuring that is going on here in Australia for the public housing sector in sync with dismantling the welfare state.While there can only be similarities I was interested in the political and tactical approach to the issue of how to formulate a fight back s response. This example from the perspective of the Scottish Socialist Party is a useful indication of an approach I'm keen to explore further when I'm in Scotland next month and talking to the SSP comrades.

Scotland faces a housing crisis of epic proportions. More than 150,000 individuals and families are on waiting lists for suitable accommodation.

Another 54,000 are homeless - many of them are young families forced to live in temporary bed and breakfast accommodation.

Rural Scotland has a desperate housing shortage, and some of the worst housing conditions to be found anywhere in the UK, especially in the private sector.

Across Scotland, more than 300,000 people live in homes affected by dampness or condensation.

Almost nine in ten Scottish homes fail to meet reasonable energy standards. And one in five Scottish households suffer fuel poverty.

Over one in three households have someone who is chronically ill or disabled. Yet there is a dire shortage of barrier free homes.

Since Blair and New Labour came to power in 1997, public sector rents have rocketed by 40 per cent.

Over the same period £1billion has been plundered from the public purse that should have been spent on council housing in Scotland.

The Scottish housing crisis has been aggravated by the loss of half a million homes under the right to buy policy.

This has removed some of the best housing stock from the public sector and reduced rent revenues to local authorities.

At least 20,000 homes require to be built every year to meet the demand for rented public sector housing. Yet not a single new council house has been built since 2003.

Last year, Scottish councils evicted more people from their homes last year than they have built over the past decade.

The Scottish Socialist Party is fighting for:
The cancelling of Scotland’s council housing debt of £3billion
The building 80,000 new public sector homes for rent over the next five years
Every home in Scotland to be brought up to a tolerable standard within five years
A freeze on public sector rents
Greater tenant control over housing investment and management
More barrier-free homes
An immediate freeze on the right to buy

No to large-scale stock transfer

The transfer of Glasgow City Councils housing stock over to the Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) has proven an expensive shambles.

Three years after their transfer, not a single house has been built or completely refurbished - even though more than £1.5billion has been made available to the GHA.

Instead of being blackmailed into handing their stock over to super-quangos, Scotland’s councils need large scale investment in housing. Source
  • Force private developers to allocate one house for social rent for every 3 new houses built at rent levels set by the local council or housing association.

Scottish Election 2007, manifesto (PDF file)

Scotland is in the grip of a housing bonanza,according to the property deal- ers,with house prices soaring through the stratosphere at supersonic speeds. Certainly,many homeowners are now in the bizarre position where the annual rise in the value oftheir home is out- stripping their annual salary.

That might seem like good news for Scotland’s home owners – though bitter experience suggests that housing mar- kets can go up like a rocket one year,and down like a stick the next.But for the million and a halfScots who do not own their own home,the housing boom is a cruel mirage.

With every rise in house prices,the more securely they become locked out of the housing market.

Scotland is now sitting on a ticking housing time-bomb.The number of first-time buyers is dwindling rapidly – down from 50 per cent to 20 per cent of the market over the past ten years. Rather than a genuine growth in home ownership,we have a sellers’market,a financial merry-go-round with the main beneficiaries being the mortgage lenders.

To make matters worse the social rent- ed sector is at the point of collapse. Decades of government cuts in hous-ing support to local authorities,com-bined with the disastrous right -to-buy policy,has condemned hundreds of thousands of families to a life sentence served out in dilapidated,crime ridden housing schemes.

Last year 11,200 council houses were sold off– but there was not a single one council house built in Scotland.

There are now approximately 25,000 homes built every year.Ofthese,90 per cent are private,leaving just 2500 new houses for rent,built mainly by housing associations.

There is now a desperate shortage of housing for rent.This shortage especially affects larger families,because of the lack offour and five apartment houses for rent;and young people who are excluded from the housing market and cannot afford the exorbitant costs of private rented accommodation.

The SSP wants to redress this imbal-ance between private and public by building 25,000 fully accessible new homes for social rent every year.

This could be financed by:
  • Cancelling the housing debt for all Scotland’s local authorities – not just those who have signed up for stock transfer,generating £2billion over four years.
  • Forcing private developers to allocate one house for social rent for every three new houses they build - at rent levels set by the local council or hous- ing association.
  • Allowing councils to impose a ‘millionaires tax’on all land and property valued at over a million pounds.Even a modest land tax of less than one per cent could generate hundreds of mil- lions for new rented housing.

Even amidst the poverty and depres- sion ofthe pre-war years,cities like Glas- gow managed to build elegant tree-lined council estates such as Mosspark and Knightswood.

Scotland today is 100 times richer.It is a myth that we can’t afford high-quality social housing. In contrast to the mainstream parties, the SSP believes that high quality,low- rent social housing holds the key to averting a future housing calamity in Scotland.

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