Britain has a serious housing crisis. This crisis is not new. No government in the last ten years has made any attempt to solve it. This is a betrayal. A betrayal of the people in our society who cannot afford 'affordable homes', but who need the security of a permanent home so that their family can have a secure base and a foundation on which to build a better future.
There are nearly 1 million families in Britain on council house waiting lists. 3.6 million are living in an overcrowded home. 2.5 million are unable to afford their rent or mortgage. 2.5 million are in "hidden households" - adults living with parents or in house shares. Only 6,463 units of social housing were built in 2017/18. Council house stock is at an all time low because of the 'right to buy' scheme. Houses that were sold in the scheme have never been replaced. Families who will probably never be able to afford to buy a home are forced to rent at exorbitant rates from the private sector. Many of the houses they rent are council houses that have been sold to private landlords. (Nearly 50% of council houses sold in the 'right to buy' scheme are in the hands of private landlords) This year the government will pay out more than £26 billion in housing benefit. This ludicrous figure is a mark of the failure of successive governments' housing policy - or lack of one.
Dealing with the housing crisis has to be be a top priority.
Regional Housing should replace Council Housing. Each region would be charged with eliminating their waiting lists within one parliament. Regions should be allowed to borrow money to build regional houses. These properties should be treated as a long-term investment and therefore a regional asset. Rents should be based on the total income of those living in the property.
Other measures would include:
a) House prices: Artificially cheap credit, promoted by banks who are hooked on property lending and land investment in preference to investing in businesses, has been the prime cause of asset price inflation. Successive governments have used tax exemptions and other advantages to turn the ground beneath our feet into a speculative money machine. Farmland is used as a tax shelter, and as a result farmers are being priced out. Land prices have skyrocketed (land values have increased by 412% since 1995). The tax issues relating to land need to be addressed, and there needs to be urgent and wide-ranging land reform.
b) High Street regeneration: Incentives should be introduced by each region to convert vacant commercial high street properties into residential and bring new life back into Britain's high streets.
c) Regional Tax (Council Tax): Discounts, for whatever reason, should be ended.
d) Empty properties: There are 630,000 empty properties in Britain. Private properties which remain empty for more than eighteen months should attract an annual surcharge equivalent to three times Regional Tax. Regions should be required to ensure that all vacant residential properties they hold are in good condition and available for rent.
e) Planning: The housing needs of the country are being stymied by a slow, obstructive and expensive planning process. There should be a complete - and swift - reform of all planning rules.
f) Council Tax should be replaced by a progressive property tax payable by owners, not tenants.