Ed’s got it right on responsibility and housing

I liked Ed Miliband’s speech today. Responsibility, reward for contributing to society, reciprocity and ‘doing your bit’ have always been part of the Labour tradition and it’s good to hear the Labour leader putting it to the fore. For too long it’s been territory we surrendered too easily to the Tories. A

nd, it’s right for Ed to draw the dividing line between us and the Tories: Labour believes everyone has responsibilities, at the top and the bottom. The Tories however care a lot about benefit cheats, but have little to say on the spiralling pay of Britain’s wealth-wrecking bankers and chief executives.

His decision to draw on housing as an example was good too. If we are to maintain the legitimacy of public housing, it needs to be a more universal good – available to support working people on a range of incomes. If it becomes housing of the last resort and for the poorest only, the political argument to sustain it becomes ever harder.

It’s the same argument for the Labour Party really: at the last election, as Ed says, we became seen as the party for those on benefits and out of work – the social housing position on the political landscape. It’s hard to sustain a political party on that basis. For legitimacy, you have to make a universal offer that the majority can buy into – the NHS position on the political landscape.

Ed’s argument would see Labour move away from a position which privileged need as the main factor in getting social housing to a system where people’s contributions through work, caring, responsible behaviour were recognised in getting public help with your housing.

As readers of this blog will know – this isn’t a problem free, ‘motherhood and apple pie’ policy – it has tough consequences. There is only so much housing and the more you allocate on a contributory principle, the less there is for those in need, for whom alternative provision will need to be made.

However, I think that passes the public’s fairness test and provides a future Labour government with a strong foundation to invest in social housing and make the case for why.

The choice isn’t between social housing for the working versus social housing for the poorest, but social housing as a more universal offer, or no social housing for anyone.

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6 Responses to Ed’s got it right on responsibility and housing

  1. Ian Abley says:

    Robert gets to the point when he says:

    ‘The only solution is a vastly expanded programme of housebuilding, and on that front the record of the last Labour government is utterly abysmal.’

    The highest Labour ambition was in the 1960s for 500,000 homes a year in Britain, and by 1968 production peaked at 413,000. Both public and private combined.

    Government household growth projections through to 2033 require 232,000 new homes a year, assuming low immigration figures. The existing stock is 26,000,000, and if every home lasted 100 years, a 1% replacement rate requires an additional 260,000 homes. That is around 500,000 as a minimum provision.

    But never has Old or New Labour got to grips with the scale and pace of this level of house building. No party has in Britain, regardless of preferred forms of tenure.

    Housing is 61% of Britain’s “worth” with £1,200,000,000,000 in mortgage lending secured against just under 70% of the stock in owner occupation. To build at any adequate level of supply would drive down the inflated value of the existing stock, which is expected to last indefinitly, and fail to meet the yearly attempt at independent household formation. The result is universal unaffordability, a disconnect from low wages, and overcrowding.

    Is the British economy simply too weak to afford housing production at the level needed?

    Ian Abley
    http://www.audacity.org

  2. Ian Abley says:

    Robert gets to the point when he says:

    ‘The only solution is a vastly expanded programme of housebuilding, and on that front the record of the last Labour government is utterly abysmal.’

    The highest Labour ambition was in the 1960s for 500,000 homes a year in Britain, and by 1968 production peaked at 413,000. Both public and private combined.

    Government household growth projections through to 2033 require 232,000 new homes a year, assuming low immigration figures. The existing stock is 26,000,000, and if every home lasted 100 years, a 1% replacement rate requires an additional 260,000 homes. That is around 500,000 as a minimum provision.

    But never has Old or New Labour got to grips with the scale and pace of this level of house building. No party has in Britain, regardless od preferred forms of tenure.

    Housing is 61% of Britain’s “worth” with £1,200,000,000,000 in mortgage lending secured against just under 70% of the value of the stock. To build at any adequate level of supply would drive down the inflated value of the existing stock, which is expected to last indefinitly, and fail to meet the yearly attempt at independent household formation. The result is universal unaffordability, a disconnect from low wages, and overcrowding.

    Is the British economy simply too weak to afford housing production at the level needed?

    Ian Abley
    http://www.audacity.org

  3. Pingback: You can’t defeat stereotypes by repeating stereotypes | Red Brick

  4. Robert says:

    What planet is this poster on? ‘If it becomes housing of last resort and for the poorest only………..’ ! Currently around 66% of all social housing lettings go to households on full housing benefit. In 1973 30% of households in social housing (overwhelmingly council) had a head of household not in employment, now the composition of social housing is precisley the reverse with over 60% of household heads not in employment. Social housing has, over the past 40 years, become overwhelmingly a tenure for the poor and vulnerable. Yes, social housing must provide decent housing for middle income families if we are to improve social housing (both in fact and in image) and have a more balanced economy, but that wont be achieved by fiddling around with the legal framework of allocations. The only solution is a vastly expanded programme of housebuilding, and on that front the record of the last Labour government is utterly abysmal. Througout the period of the last labour government less than 20000 social dwellings a year were built, compare that with the record of the Wilson government up to 1970 where each year an average of 160,000 council homes were built.

    Given Labour’s obsession with home ownership and keeping house prices up I have little confidence that Labour recognises what is required.

  5. Sue says:

    Looks like the workhouse has just come back into fashion…

  6. Jim says:

    “for whom alternative provision will need to be made.”

    Like what?

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