I may have been quiet on the blog recently (thanks Steve as ever for holding the fort), but I’ve been out and about speaking on housing at Labour meetings.
I thought I’d report back on a few of the themes and interests.
Housing is as close to the hearts of Labour members as ever and the debates and discussions have been energetic and very well informed.
I was especially pleased to find some people advocating wealth and property taxes. I’m a fan of reducing taxation on working people’s income by increasing it on unearned wealth – and Britain’s top-end house prices are a good place to start.
The generational divide is clearly on display. Younger Labour members, especially in London, know their chances of owning a home are slim unless they’ve got parents to help them out. Those of us under a certain age have a litany of dodgy landlord stories – nicked deposits, sudden ending of leases and shoddy repairs (when you could get them done). Increasingly, poor quality housing is an issue that younger people higher up the income chain are experiencing. It’s further proof that Ken’s campaign is onto something – uniting the interests of those on low and middle incomes.
Labour members also haven’t forgotten the difference a Labour government made. Many were pleased to see their councils building some council housing for the first-time and there’s always been someone speaking up for the decent homes programme. The latter is one of those things that isn’t headline worthy, but was one of those programmes that has a big impact on the lives of those who benefitted.
The toughest question I’ve had is how to turn £25bn of housing benefit paid every year into investment in new homes, without borrowing more upfront (answers on a postcard). Though the person who posed this question I’m sure had some ideas himself.
It’s been good to hear members’ housing stories, good and bad. Here’s an excerpt of a story someone sent to us at the meeting:
“I am a local Labour member. I had wished to attend the general meeting but I am working. I just wanted to share my view on housing. I am 20 years old and live in a two bedroom council house with 5 other family members. From personal experience I can’t stress enough the importance of housing, especially those with a poorer income. Often it is education that is key to getting people out of poverty but poor housing has a bad effect on children’s education. Housing can also play a huge role in determining someone’s quality of life. In my case it has put a huge strain on family relations and often with housing being the main cause of arguments between my parents. For me my housing situation has added to pressures that teenagers face. I have no space of my own and it has made me easily irritable”.
Our correspondent also had a suggestion:
“People in houses like mine have empty space in there attics. Perhaps if they were developed via loft conversions it would ease some of the housing pains? I know if the space in my attic was converted it would ease the tension in my house”
An exceptionally reasonable request given the circumstances – no ‘culture of entitlement’ here, we’ll leave that to this bloke.
If you’d like a speaker on housing for your local meeting, just drop us a line and we can normally send someone along. LHGspeakers@gmail.com