Homes for All Statement: New government housing policies face both ways

23 July 2022

A raft of new government housing policies are facing two different ways: towards greater marketisation, and towards better rights and protections for tenants. There will be some important struggles as to which of these tendencies will win out.

First, the bad news

The proposals in Boris Johnson’s housing speech of 9 June proposals (right to buy for housing association tenants, and conversion of rent to mortgage for those on state benefit) are a cynical reversion to the rhetoric of marketisation.

They offer nothing at all to address the housing needs of the poorest, for whom a right to buy extension would make things much worse.

There are plenty of practical difficulties with the proposals. A government enacted right to buy of private property is legally and practically problematic. The right to buy extension is backed by a promise of Treasury funding, but it would be expensive. There is a promise of 100% like for like replacement, even though there was a pilot for the scheme which showed that only half of the homes were replaced, and the replacements were more expensive and inferior in standard to the ones that were sold. Replacement promises for local government right to buy have always been broken.

Many housing association finance managers might welcome right to buy, as they would lose social rent stock and most likely receive cash in compensation with little effective control over how it is spent. Local authority right to buy (introduced in 1980) began a massive shrinkage of the social housing stock, and this new policy means that the government would consider extending the shrinkage all over again. The government promises a tight restriction on the number of homes to be sold, and a national waiting list to buy, but the option for shrinkage is very much there. 

In the parliamentary debate on social housing (which was also held on 9 June) and in media responses and interviews the Labour party did not oppose the Tories’ proposals in principle, and nor did they mention Johnson. They made some good criticisms of the detail, but there was much that remained unsaid. There was no criticism of the influence of property developers over housing policy, the oversupply of unaffordable housing, the Shelter report ‘Building for our future: A vision for social housing’ which shows that a mass social rent housebuilding programme would pay for itself in benefit savings and savings in the other costs of social exclusion.

There is a tendency to call for more social rent housing, but without the specified numbers and the funding that would define an effective policy (100,000 new council homes a year, and £10 billion a year in grant funding), ‘more social rent housing’ is meaningless. 

The Labour leadership clearly believe that they cannot be seen to oppose any proposals that are packaged as home ownership, and they are reluctant to oppose right to buy in any form. They are not prepared to speak the worth and value of council housing or social rent housing, as an alternative to the present policy of excessive government financial support for ownership. They are ignoring the excellent motion passed at last year’s party conference to support the contents of the 2019 election manifesto on housing, including 100,000 new council homes a year, and abolishing the right to buy.

Shadow Secretary of State Lisa Nandy went further on 2 May when Johnson first broached the new plans for extended right to buy, tweeting ‘Every family deserves the security of owning their own home. This won’t deliver that. Labour will.’

The proposed conversion of rent to mortgage for those on state benefit is restricted to those in work and claiming housing benefits. It is not at all clear how this might work. But it is potentially an even more dangerous policy than the right to buy extension. It is reminiscent of mass privatisations elsewhere in the world, where public sector homes were simply given away to tenants, without proper concern for sustainability. The government is not in a position to do anything rapidly on that scale, but they are carrying out a full-scale review of the mortgage market to find ways to make it easier for younger people to buy. Of course that is fine, if it was to be done without losing the social rent homes, but instead the review seems to be linked to the right to buy extension and the housing benefit to mortgage schemes.

And now, the better news

On 16 June, we had the opposite face of  government policy, with the publication of the white paper on their proposed renters reform bill. This promises the abolition of Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notices, and the extension of the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector. This is a major reform project, changing decades of policies by successive governments which have moved away from security of tenure, and have left the private rented sector without any proper regulation. As if that is not enough, there is also a benefit for social rent tenants, again undoing decades  of policy creep: ‘probationary, fixed-term and demoted social tenancies are now set to be abolished on the grounds that there should be parity between sectors’. 

These reforms of the  private rented sector could be partly nullified without rent control. So the case for rent control is being opened up here. The proposed reforms show that protest works, and that the power of property ownership and the agenda of reducing tenants’ rights can all be challenged. These two government policies are in total contradiction with one another. It is possible that the private renters reforms could be stopped by an internal revolt within the Conservative Party. It is worrying that the battle seems to be conducted mostly covertly and within the Conservative Party. By not opposing any policy badged as ownership, however damaging it may be, Labour would put itself on the wrong side of this debate. It may be argued that the housing crisis with its continued rise of private renting (insecure, low quality, and poor value for money) is tending to create an increasingly coherent voting base for the Labour Party. Hence the Tories, who would like to see private rent as the working class tenure of the future for those who cannot afford owner occupation, have strong incentives to carry through some serious, but necessarily limited reforms to the sector.

Tenants, residents and housing campaigners must campaign and struggle for a consistent policy to build (or buy) new environmentally sustainable council housing, to restrict developer influence and restrict excessive market housebuilding, while controlling rents and improving residents’ rights across all tenures. The contradictions of the  new government policies show that such a campaign could win the day.

Here is Lisa Nandy’s tweet:

See Jules Birch, ‘Can the government deliver on fairer rent?’, Inside Housing 17 June: https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/comment/can-the-government-deliver-on-fairer-rent  (behind paywall – but you can copy the article title into a search engine to read it).

Hansard report of the House of Commons debate on 9 June:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2022-06-09/debates/3AC0E458-8C3F-4846-84AC-17F7BD03CB20/SocialHousingAndBuildingSafety

The White Paper, ‘a fairer private rented sector’: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1083378/A_fairer_private_rented_sector_web_accessible.pdf

Thanks to Paul Burnham, Haringey DCH

Campaign Against Empty Homes: Organising Meeting – Thursday 7th July 7PM

Please join us at the online Campaing Against Empty Homes Organising Meeting on Thursday 7th July 2022, from 7pm to 8pm.


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Agenda items for this meeting

  1. New draft CAEH Website for discussion- I will send you a link later this week 
  2. Distribution of the Day of Action leaflets – can everyone have a think of who could help us with distribution
  3. Contacting a wider range of organisations to promote the day  (including a report of meeting with Community Planning Alliance)
  4. Speakers for CAEH Rally
  5. Upcoming events that CAEH should get leaflets to.
  6. AOB

Join Homes for All and the housing bloc at the TUC demonstration on 18 June

We want to make sure housing is a headline issue on the TUC’s demonstration on 18 June. The protest “We demand better” is focused on demands around workers wages, rights and benefits. The TUC’s demands are:

  • A real pay rise for every worker – and a real living wage for all
  • Respect and security for all workers – ban zero hours contracts, ban fire and rehire, decent sick pay now
  • End racism at work
  • Tax energy profits to pay our bills
  • Raise universal credit
  • Boost union bargaining rights now

People in private rented accommodation will be especially hard hit by the rising cost of living, but people living in council housing and leaseholders are also finding it difficult to make ends meet. As the government continues to make working class people pay for the economic crisis, we demand housing justice!

We are grateful for the support of UNITE Community, SHAC, Streets Kitchen, National Pensioners Convention, Defend Council Housing, Grenfell Community Campaigners, Campaign Against Empty Homes, Disabled People Against Cuts and others. We look forward to meeting up with everyone in these campaigns to form a housing bloc on the TUC demonstration. We will be helping the Campaign Against Empty Homes to distribute leaflets on the demo too.

Join us at 11am on 18 June at Portland Place to demand

  • Secure & Safe Housing for All
  • Rent & Service Charge Controls
  • Requisition Empty Homes
  • Justice for Grenfell

See TUC Demo details : https://www.tuc.org.uk/DemandBetter

Islington campaigners step up their fight for prison flats to be sold to council

Islington Homes for All protest at Pentonville Prison 14 May 2022

Ongoing campaign to force Ministry of Justice to sell 28 empty flats as originally planned to Islington Council for families in housing need.

Islington Homes for All staged a protest on 14 May at Pentonville Prison. 28 flats have stood empty for years and the Ministry of Justice has reneged on its promise to sell them to Islington Council, choosing instead to make a deal with a developer who will pay more money and doubtless make them into luxury flats, rather than the council homes so desperately needed.

Islington Homes for All is part of a national Campaign Against Empty Homes which has mobilised housing campaigners and local residents to highlight the scandal of thousands of empty homes across the UK. At the same time thousands of people are forced to live in unaffordable, insecure and temporary accommodation.

Since Islington Council have declined the developers’ planning application Islington Homes for All are fighting for the MoJ to return to their original agreement and hand the 3 and 4 bedroom flats back to Islington Council.

You can help the campaign by signing and sharing the Change.org petition and by helping to build the next Campaign Against Empty Homes Day of Action in your area in October 2022 (Date to be confirmed)

PETITION: Ministry of Justice: Hand over the 28 Empty, Ex Prison Flats to Islington Council

Developers’ pledge won’t solve the building safety crisis – protest 20 April

UK Cladding Action Group call on campaigners to rally at Westminster when the Building Safety Bill goes back to the Commons

Five years after the Grenfell fire and we are no closer to a comprehensive solution to guarantee fire safety to all residents in affected blocks. And it still seems unclear exactly who will be funding remediation in many cases. This is despite the pledge developers have made to fund repairs in buildings over 11m high. This pledge is a product of the campaigning pressure of the Grenfell impacted community, leaseholder campaigns such as UK Cladding Action Group and Action for Fire Safety Justice and trade unions, particularly FBU. Homes for All has been proud to support them over the years. It’s no accident that this pledge comes just days before campaigners are due to protest again.

But whatever the Government says, and whatever Secretary of State for so-called levelling up Michael Gove wants people to believe, this pledge, and the proposed Building Safety Bill is yet another piecemeal solution for some people, at best. UKCAG explains what’s happening here. Bankruptcies and years of living in unsafe housing are set to continue for many.

This is why everyone needs to support the protest on Wednesday 20 April at 1pm in Westminster. It seems likely that following months of talks and lobbying with MPs and government ministers, the movement will have to return to the streets in a major way. This is needed to force the government to legislate to protect all leaseholders from costs and make all buildings safe. As Action for Fire Safety Justice has proved, a developer can be forced to take full responsibility for remediation if the campaign to make them do so is active enough and visible enough. We stand in solidarity with all those fighting back.

Campaign Against Empty Homes – Sign the Manifesto

The Campaign Against Empty Homes Local Election Manifesto calls for Local Authorities to take action!

There are over 100,000 families living in Temporary Accommodation whilst over half a million homes lie empty as so-called ‘second homes’, Airbnb-type short lets, or simply have no permanent residents.

Meanwhile, the wrong type of housing is being built nationwide. Unaffordable to anyone on an average income to either rent or buy, from city centre towers to car-dependent suburbs, many of these newbuilds are sold to global investors via off-plan schemes, ending up as so-called ‘Buy to Leave’ wealth investments or Airbnbs and second homes, with no permanent residents.

Communities are being broken up as council estates that could be refurbished are being left to decline with many homes empty, only to be replaced by yet more unaffordable new builds, often financialised by private developers.

The Climate emergency demands refurbishment, not demolition. Retrofitting long-term empty homes and council estates can help solve the climate crisis. 
You can read it and sign the manifesto here : https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd5Xra_sx5hMNYVa82zr2hYisAdl7IrsEWp4bf7tLjdd6ECJg/viewform

Campaign Against Empty Homes is organising a “Digital Day of Action” on Monday 25 April, 2022

Supporters of the campaign group will forward the manifesto to their council candidates and seek support. If you would like to take part in the Digital Day of Action and let the media know please download this press release.

25th April Digital Day of Action calls for candidates to end the empty homes scandal 

Campaign calls for candidates to combat empty homes and stop developers building ‘The Wrong Housing’

As local elections approach the Campaign Against Empty Homes coalitioni which unites housing campaigners across political parties, homelessness and tenant organisations and trade unions call on supporters to seek local election candidate commitments to address the housing crisis.

25 April ‘Digital Day of Action’ will see supporters contact candidates to call for support of a Manifesto of demands that centre on growing numbers of empty homes and action to combat housing policy which leads to tens of thousands of new homes being sucked out of residential use as second homes and Airbnbs, as affordable options for those on average incomes decline to zero across the country.

Key Points:

Coalition members call on supporters and members of the public to ask local election candidates to directly address the housing crisis and support action to end the waste of hundreds of thousands of empty homes.

Long-term empty homes numbers have risen to nearly a quarter of a million and stand 20% higher than 5 years ago despite an intensifying housing crisisii.

Numbers of families in Temporary Accommodation continue to rise with 100,000iii placed in Temporary Accommodation by councils, increasing numbers housed in unsuitable accommodation distant from families and local support networks.

The Manifesto calls on candidates to support:

  • Funding local council work to bring empty homes back into use for those who need genuinely affordable, decent and permanent homes to live in.
  • Campaigning for national government action through investment and stronger powers to bring wasted homes back into use
  • Greater regulation of Airbnb to stop low-cost housing being sucked out of residential use.
  • Vacancy Taxes on homes not in residential use, to discourage second home purchases.
  • Local and national registers of residential property ownership and use.
  • Retrofit First model for social housing to prevent demolitions and help tackle the climate crisis.
  • Fair redevelopment to prioritise low-cost homes and council houses to meet demand – not corporate developments that break up local communities.

Will McMahon, Director of Action on Empty Homes, said “We support the Campaign Against Empty Homes Day of Action because it is time we had a frank conversation about vacancy levels. Over half a million homes are out of residential use long-term in England. Without change these homes won’t house anyone any time soon. We need to stop pretending that a quarter of a million second homes in England are really homes at all. We need to get wasted empty homes back into use for those 100,000 families who desperately need them. We must also stop building the wrong housing to end the housing crisis and instead force developers to address the falling numbers of social and genuinely affordable homes available to those in desperate housing need.”

Tanya Murat, Homes for All, said “We think the empty homes scandal should be a major election issue. No political party should be able to sweep this under the carpet any longer. There are over half a million empty or underused homes in the UK whilst every day developers continue building housing for profit not for people. Local government should play a role in challenging that – making sure every empty home is filled with people who need housing.”

Notes to Editors:

The Campaign Against Empty Homes is a cross-party coalition calling for action and involving community organisations, trade unions and homelessness projects, as well as members of many different political parties – it calls for everyone concerned about the intensifying housing crisis across the country will call on local politicians to adopt the policies in its Manifesto for the upcoming local elections.

List of Campaign Coalition, supporters: Action on Empty Homes, The Big Issue, Disabled People

Against Cuts, Fuel Poverty Action, The Green Party, Homes for All, Labour Homelessness Campaign,

Renters’ Rights London, Peace & Justice Project, People Before Profit, Radical Housing Network, Social Housing Action Campaign, Southwark Defend Council Housing, Streets Kitchen, Street Storage, Unite the Union London and Eastern Region, Unite Community London and Eastern Region, Yes to Fair Development.

Link to the Manifesto here: http://bitly.ws/oxGh

For data on empty and second homes collected by every local council in England CLICK HERE

References and data sources:

  1. Link to the Campaign Against Empty Homes Local Election Manifesto Leaflet HERE
  2. Action on Empty Homes Facts and Figure (based on Government data): https://www.actiononemptyhomes.org/factsand-figures

HM Government data Dwelling Stock and Vacants: See Table 615: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-datasets/live-tables-on-dwelling-stock-including-vacants iii House of Commons Library, Households in Temporary Accommodation (England) Feb 2022: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn02110/

Homes for All Summit 2022 Calls for Radical Change in Housing

Over 200 people registered for the summit on 12 March which heard from campaigners for tenants rights in planning, fire safety, fuel poverty and empty homes. Jeremy Corbyn MP closed the summit with a message of thanks for the organisers.

Campaigners pledged to fight for radical change to enable people to get the housing they need and be in control of their housing and local environment, rather than at the mercy of unaccountable landlords and property developers. They plan to meet again on 2nd April to take forward the action points from the workshops.

In the Housing, Poverty and Energy Futures workshop the participants backed refurbishment instead of demolition and called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies with insulation and energy for all.

Action points from the Planning / Development workshop included supporting local campaigns fighting over planning and development and campaigning on community control of planning and inclusive regeneration.

The Empty Homes workshop agreed to support further action on empty homes, including coming together for a strategy meeting. People who would like to take part in empty homes actions are welcome to attend the Campaign Against Empty Homes planning meeting on 2nd April at 12:30pm.

The Grenfell and Fire Safety Action workshop pledged to support the Grenfell impacted community in calling for prosecutions of those responsible for the fire in the building industry and politicians. They agreed to continue with solidarity action with residents in unsafe buildings, including support for further action by cladding campaigners and Action for Fire Safety Justice around the Building Safety Bill currently going through parliament.

Campaigners in the Council Housing, Housing Associations, supply, rents and service charges workshop thought that it was important to “continue working together to build a programme which has specific demands, create a peoples inquiry into housing, a future event on fighting back and clarify what we want to do using a trade union type strategy.”

The summit recording has been edited into 4 shorts and these videos can be downloaded here:https://we.tl/t-8nYWH6aegH:
📢Opening Plenary with: Kevin Courtney;
Bell Ribeiro-Addy; Emma Dent Coad; Ben Clay; Jennifer Shango
📢Lunch sessions:Jon Richards, Head of Unison local govt, Recorded message from  Ken Loach, Film maker + 2 short films by Melissa Herman and Bunny Schendler made with young people and parents from campaigning groups in Westminster. And finally Dr D’Adda an activist from Barcelona
📢Workshop Report backs
📢Closing Plenary with:
Kwajo Tweneboa; John McDonnell; Nikki Saunders; Gyekye Tanoh; Joe Delaney; Sian Berry; Jeremy Corbyn

The speeches from the plenaries can also be viewed on Facebook here: https://fb.watch/bIpwd1JZ6K/

General Meeting – Saturday 12th February 2022, 11am

Details for this Saturday’s Meeting are below – CAEH is scheduled first and HFA will follow.

Information & links are also below for the Homes for All Summit, Homes for Lambeth and Action on Empty Homes.

Meetings: Campaign Against Empty Homes (10am) followed by Homes for All (11am)  
Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83272392880

Meeting ID: 832 7239 2880

Agenda for CAEH
Notes of the Steering Group meeting
Manifesto – design and use
Airbnb meeting
Meeting focused on the history of squatting and policies etc.
Date of next HfA meeting
AOB 

Agenda for HfA 
Update on Summit 22
Report from DCH/Parliamentary Group
What’s happening Locally – updates
AOB

1. Register for your tickets for Homes for All Summit 22 https://bit.ly/3Gt2dxb

2. Save Central Hill Estate et al/Lambeth. Action, 2pm – 4pm on Saturday 12th February: http://bitly.ws/oqta

3. Link for  Action on Empty Homes Event Regulating Airbnb: Approaches from Berlin, Barcelona and Amsterdam   https://rb.gy/sarb6x

Homes for All National Summit, Saturday 12 march 2022

Updated timetable below

Join our online conference to plan campaigns in 2022 for genuinely affordable, secure and safe housing.

Saturday, 12 March, 2022, 11:00 – 15:00

Register:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/homes-for-all-national-summit-2022-tickets-240834712107

But if we work together we can fight this.

The removal of support measures for those impacted by the pandemic, the spike in living costs, including food and fuel, along with the threat of rent and service charge hikes, all mean the housing crisis is continuing to damage health, livelihoods, families and communities.

The aim of the summit is to build strong networked national housing campaigns for the coming year by bringing together local groups, Trade Unionists, MPs and supporters from around the UK to share information and create coordinated solidarities and strategies.

Workshop-based to generate ideas for how we can come together to fight for the secure, genuinely affordable and council homes that people need.

Speakers include

Jeremy Corbyn MP

John McDonnell MP

Kevin Courtney National Education Union

Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP

Matt Wrack Fire Brigades Union

Kwajo Tweneboa Tenant Activist

Sian Berry AM GLA

and tenant and resident campaigners from across the country…

REGISTER and find out more: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/homes-for-all-national-summit-2022-tickets-240834712107

Contact Details:

Email: info@axethehousingact.org.uk

https://www.facebook.com/Homes4AllUK

Twitter: https://twitter.com/homes4alluk