The Housing Act is fundamentally unfair, unworkable and must be repealed.
We need to replace it with a national housing strategy that helps create a more just and equal housing future based on rent controls and secure homes for all.
Our Autumn Statement gives some ideas for how we can do that.
We welcome other suggestions and contributions.
Investment in council and other really affordable homes for rent is vital – we need more not less. Investing in council housing and other social rented homes will reduce housing need and help take the heat out of the housing market. Building homes will boost the economy and can create decent, well-paid jobs and apprenticeships. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has shown that government investment in new, ‘green’ housing is good value for money, with the economy gaining £3.50 for every £1 invested.
The Housing and Planning Act attempts to redefine social renting as ‘emergency’ or ‘temporary’ housing, by ending secure tenancies for council tenants and imposing means testing. This is no way to sustain stable, diverse and cohesive neighbourhoods, rural and cities. We need genuine mixed communities with homes forthe people who clean hospitals and deliver babies, work in factories, teach and assist in classrooms, grow and cook our food and make our coffee, deliver the post and drive buses and trains. A decent,secure, affordable home should be a right, not a time-limited privilege. Our Autumn Statement seeks to protect permanent tenancies for council and housing association tenants and calls for more security, and the scrapping of six-month Assured Shorthold Tenancies, in the private sector.
Less security of tenure means more social cleansing. Entire neighbourhoods are being stripped of their vital social networks and character as people on average and low incomes are priced out. Often this happens under the bogus guise of ‘estate regeneration’. Our Autumn Statement calls for the suspension of estate demolition programmes and investment in new and existing council housing, without strings attached. We need to redirect funding into bricks and mortar, instead of using public money to support high rents and house prices through curren tsubsidies and tax breaks to developers, financiers and landlords and to ‘StarterHomes’.
People are being pushed out of their homes and communities by benefit cuts and caps. Almost half of those currently receiving benefits are in work and £9 billion of public money goes straight to private landlords. We need to scrap the Bedroom Tax and draconian benefit caps, ‘work suitability assessments’ and other policies that waste public money and scapegoat the poor, disabled, women and children for the housing crisis. Our Autumn Statement says ‘cut rents, not benefits!’
Local councils are currently prevented from investing in the homes we need by accountancy procedures that stop them using all the money from Right to Buy sales, borrowing at providential rates and using the full proceeds of rents. Contrary to the myth peddled by politicians and the media, council housing is not subsidised – the biggest subsidies go to landlords (see Shelter report, and for more detail John Hills 2007). Instead our Autumn Statement says we should allow councils the freedom to invest to build and maintain homes that meet need.
Private property developers are profiteering from the housing crisis. They use secret ‘viability assessments’ to get planning permission and build homes few can afford, often bought by investment companies, and many then left empty. Our Autumn Statement calls for the full publication of viability assessments, demands that all new housing developments meet local housing need and that public land is used to launch a national programme of new council house building. The New Economics Foundation has identified an initial 10 plots of publicly-owned land that could provide 4,631 new homes. Other land owned by us – such as the Holloway Prison site in north London – has the potential to make a real contribution towards solving the housing crisis for this and future generations.
The misuse of public land and ‘land banking’ by private developers show we need more democratic control over planning decisions, not less as the government intends. Our Autumn Statement demands the full restoration of planning powers to elected local councillors and the enforcement of existing rules to ensure new housing development meets local housing need.
Housing decisions and services work better when they’re accountable to local people. Our Autumn Statement calls for genuine consultation and opportunities for participation for tenant and resident organisations.
We need housing rights for all, including particularly fo rthe homeless and for Gypsies and Travellers who have seen them taken away over recent years, including under the Act.We back the United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights which enshrines the right to adequate housing, including protection from arbitrary eviction, demolition and interference, freedom of movement, security of tenure and equal and nondiscriminatory access to adequate housing.
Housing availability and costs are now a major workplace issue, which is why more trade unions are campaigning for a new approach to housing policy. Too many workers now have to spend well over 30% of their pay on rent or housing costs, or have to spend lots of time and money on long commutes. Even the CBI says that housing costs are having a negative impact on business, the economy and society. Our Autumn Statement calls for a new definition of ‘affordable’ housing based on what two-thirds of people can afford at a maximum one third of net income.
An Autumn Statement for homes, jobs and communities
- Repeal the Housing & Planning Act 2016.
- Regulation of private renting to include controlled rents, secure tenancies and an end to no-fault and retaliatory evictions.
- Invest in council housing– remove the artificial debt burden and free councils to develop secure homes at social rent
- A moratorium on estate demolition– existing homes should be modernised and made energy-efficient
- Councils’ housing plans and targets must match local need for really-affordable homes for rent
- Scrap the Bedroom Tax and benefit cuts/caps –housing benefit should cover average rents
- Housing cannot be classed ‘affordable’ if two-thirds of households in an area cannot afford it (i.e.if housing costs amount to over one third of net disposable income)
- Housing associations must be subject to democratic oversight and regulation
- Genuine involvement of tenant and resident organisations and those in housing need, with support to encourage real participation in decision making n Respectthe traditions ofGypsies and Travellers and provide suitable sites needed
- Act to enforce the United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights which enshrines the right to adequate housing
- Restore full local, democratic and transparent planning powers
- Publish full details of viability assessments for all developments
- All new housing development to include at least 50% really-affordable housing for rent
- Public land used for housing to provide 100% publicly-owned, really-affordable homes
Download our autumn statement here: AtHA_autumn_statement_23Nov2016_print
Join our Protest at The Houses of Parliament on November 23rd 2016, 12pm.