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Liberal Democrats call for new housing revolution

March 13, 2018 1:31 PM
By Newshound in Liberal Democrat Voice


The package, passed by the party at its Spring Conference in Southport, calls for new powers that will see local authorities able to build and invest in more affordable and social housing. This includes greater access to borrowing for local authorities, strengthened powers to bring empty homes back into use and the power to direct the use of otherwise unwanted public land. Alongside measures to allow local government to abandon Right to Buy and to require that profit from council house sales is invested in new social housing.

These proposals would empower local communities to provide the affordable and social housing that Britain needs and tackle the housing crisis head on.

Wera Hobhouse (Chris McAndrew [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson, said:

Having a place to call home is a basic human right. In the face of a national housing crisis we are failing as a country to fulfil that right. It is clear that the private sector cannot be relied upon to deliver affordable homes for those struggling to get on the housing ladder.

Social housing is one of the pillars that underpin our welfare state. It is a vital safety net for tens of thousands of families who cannot afford to rent privately, let alone ever buy their own homes. We need local government and housing associations to provide new social housing directly.

The Tories seem content with presiding over an end of social housing. Their ideology is ownership, they don't believe we need social housing at all.

We need to move away from providing shadowy land banking and towards greater housing provision. That is why the Liberal Democrats are empowering local councils and communities to provide the housing that is needed.

John MarriottJohn Marriott retired LibDem Lincolnshire County Councillor comments

I grew up in a council house in the 1950s when that was the norm. I don't personally see why the 'council house' has become such a dirty word in some quarters, even being termed "a stigmatised last resort" at a housing conference I attended as a District Councillor a few years ago, when Thatcher's 'Right to Buy' was decimating housing stocks up and down the country.

In Ms Hobhouse's native Germany, for example, people generally look on houses as somewhere to live not, as has been allowed to happen here, as a way of making money. When I got married in 1969 about three month's salary would have been enough for a deposit on a house. It's a bit more than that today, isn't it?

I've nothing against people wanting to own their own home; but not everyone wants to and some just cannot handle a mortgage. Government and local councils have just got to take the bull by the horns. Ignore the imbys mascarading as guardians of the countryside. Take away the right to buy and stop selling Council stock management to third parties. Stop judging the success of the economy by how much house prices are rising. Make sure that ALL future shared equity schemes do not allow any staircasing. Make sure that developers don't just hoard building land until the price is right. Make estate agents earn their corn. Why not copy the Scottish idea of the 'sealed offer' to discourage gazumping? And… let local councils go ahead and build more social housing.

It's all very well and good waxing eloquent about modular housing and other innovative methods of building; but while you are fiddling, Rome is still burning!

I know it's not a pleasant thought for a party trying to curry favour with a largely property owning electorate (or one aspiring to be so) but SOMEBODY has got to grasp the nettle and tell people that owning your own home (or perhaps more accurately seeking to buy your own home) should never be a licence to print money.

The trouble is, certainly since the 'Barber boom' of the early 1970s, generations of Brits, both young and old, have used home ownership as a way of making money, in that you start with a terrace, wait for the prices to rise, sell it and move on to something bigger and so on. I know we've had a couple of spells of negative equity in the past thirty years but prices have largely soared because, firstly not enough houses have been built, either to buy or to rent and secondly, banks and Building Societies have been falling over themselves to lend the cash. No wonder the average age of a first time buyer in London is now around 43!

So, stop hiding behind arguments about building styles etc. Get the land from developers if they are reluctant to build, get the money from the banks (after all, they owe us one, don't they?) , if necessary, train the workers (especially if all those Polish builders start returning home), cancel the right to buy, ignore the nimbys and let's get building!In my enthusiasm I forgot to say that local authorities need a water tight Local Plan to make sure that infrastructure improvements, especially new roads and public transport, go hand in hand with any major development. Before I retired as a County Councillor last May I was part of the Central Lincs Strategic Planning Committee comprising the County Council and three of Lincolnshire's seven District Councils that successfully piloted a Local Plan through the Planning Inspectorate last year. You see, it can be done.

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