Following Labour’s massive post-war house building programme everyone in Britain had
the opportunity to access a house, secure in the knowledge that where they lived was their
home. Their children and grandchildren could look forward to the same but this is no longer the case. After nearly forty years of the “free market” being imposed on housing provision by all governments since Thatcher a whole generation of our young people are now facing huge difficulty in finding an affordable, decent and secure place to live.
Council houses, sold to tenants at knockdown prices, are now bought up by absentee
private landlords and let on short-term leases. Councils and social housing providers are
prevented from building, and their ever-decreasing stock can only be let on short-term
leases. Those wishing to buy find that saving a deposit is now beyond them, and so have to
rent privately, with little security of tenure. A house for many people is no longer a home -it is a place to live for the time being until the landlord tells you to move on.
This is Tory housing policy in action. Young people cannot afford to buy, they must rent or live their parents.
Renting means short-term leases which make it difficult to make and sustain roots, to benefit from continuous family and community support. Young people cannot plan their families and futures with any confidence and a change of address may mean that inter-generational support systems become difficult to maintain, child care arrangements may have to change, children could face changes of school, and transport to work or education can become difficult. Not knowing who your neighbours will be means communities become fragile, and local pride soon disappears. This is what the Tory free market ideology has created in housing policy and what “generation rent” face month to month.
In Hartlepool we have seen neighbourhoods, once vibrant communities, turned into sad
churns for unsettled tenants of private landlords. Longstanding residents of these
communities (often owner occupiers) remember better times and worry that they do not
feel safe in their homes. Even in market terms they cannot “cash in”, prices have dropped
as only absentee private landlords are able to raise the required capital to buy.
This scenario is most evident in Victoria and Burn Valley Wards where the housing market
has collapsed for terraced properties, with a decline in owner-occupation, together with
increased concentrations of often absentee private landlords. When asked by Labour
canvassers recently, local residents too often described worry about high rates of neighbour
turnover, empty boarded up houses, litter and anti-social behaviour.
Housing surveys conducted for the Council’s Housing Strategy show high levels of
dissatisfaction with terraced housing provision, reflecting not only worry about these being
declining neighbourhoods but also changing aspirations. People want newer houses,
offering better use of space, gardens and parking space.
From this market, failure comes serious housing management issues. There is a high level of private renting in these areas; 20.3% of all private rented dwellings in Hartlepool are in the Victoria Ward and 17.9% in Burn Valley. Over 40% of these have had a change of tenant in the last two years.
In Burn Valley Ward 7.7% of homes are empty and in Victoria Ward 11.6% of homes aren't in use - that's one in eight!
Many private houses are classed as non-decent. With tenants complaining of poor heating, damp and fire hazards and unfortunately too often an absentee private landlord is involved.
The Council, of course, recognise these management issues and attempt to address them however only do so within Central Government restrictions. The Council is limited
in what can be done to make non-caring exploitative landlords act to improve below par
houses. Councils have severe limits to the funding they can raise to update old or build
new houses and these restrictions are designed and intended to protect the private rented market - No surprise when 28% (87) Tory MPs are landlords themselves!
The Conservatives voted down a bill make housing regulation more effective following the Grenfell disaster and of those who voted 72 received more than £10 000 a year from being a landlord. Counted amongst these 72 MP's is Phillip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The result of current and previous government policy is an overall housing shortage, with too many private rented houses requiring significant update, and many landlords with a vested interest in resisting change.
AA new housing policy is required, one for the many and not the few. Councils will have to undertake major town planning exercises to re-establish neighbourhoods as attractive communities and houses as homes (for life if desired).
The task is huge following over 40 years of Tory inspired free-market housing policy.
Forty years long years which have proven the market does not know best but instead has shown that Tory economic ideology is not fit for purpose or for our country. Enough is enough.
A vote for Labour is a chance to show this Government that our young people deserve a better deal on housing.
- A Labour Government will ensure that houses to rent can be safe, secure long-term homes.
- A Labour Government will ensure enough new houses are built to make access to a home a reality whether buying
- A Labour Government will need Labour Councils to make this happen.