More social housing, not a bedroom tax, is the answer to our housing shortage

by Helen Godwin Teige

We know that economics alone cannot dictate the shape of our society and despite living under the most regressive government in modern times, we expect human considerations to be included in coalition policy. In the case of the “bedroom tax” it seems that Cameron’s Tories have reached a low ebb in disregarding those who require help from the government.

Growing up in the 1980’s on a small, very green and very pleasant housing estate around a third of the inhabitants had taken up the right to buy option. The street was a mix of young families and older couples, rehoused from post war prefabs. There was no sense of the temporary in our street, owner occupiers and tenants lived, worked and played together; only the council paint palette on the front doors gave away which houses were still local authority owned. Gardens were manicured, hanging baskets tended and everyone looked after each other.

My point is not one of nostalgia; but rather that this world does still exist. The current governments obsession with demonizing those in social housing or claiming housing benefit threatens to tear apart the very fabric of communities across Britain through the bedroom tax which will force people to leave their homes; or face a further financial penalty during some of the toughest times in decades. It is also prudent to highlight that many commentators have little understanding of the benefit of this policy, given the lack of smaller housing stock., confirming that this policy is purely a fiscal one and will do little ease the demand on social housing. Rather, as we all know, the answer is to build new social housing and pull together communities through job creation, renewed confidence and ambition.

Putting people in this position threatens schooling, childcare arrangements, familial support and the financial stability of families with the least money to spare. The now-predictable U-turn we saw from Iain Duncan-Smith earlier this month protects foster carers, families of teenagers in the armed forces and some with disabilities, but still leaves thousands of people with difficult choices to make over the months ahead.

The government is also busy encouraging local authorities to only offer fixed term tenancies; further fragmenting the sense of community in these sometimes challenging locations as well as taking away the stability for children that can only be found from a consistent home and school life.

It strikes me that this policy is the culmination of decades of ignorance and lack of attention to the most vulnerable families in the country. There are an infinite number of lines to use at this point; ‘there is no place like home’, ‘home is where the heart is’; but not in 2013 Britain – it seems not everyone is entitled to the dignity of a permanent home and the support of a community that they know; the very thing that is very often the underpinning of this fragile society.

Helen Godwin Teige is a Labour party campaigner

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4 Responses to “More social housing, not a bedroom tax, is the answer to our housing shortage”

  1. Robin Thorpe says:

    IEA have done some research on this; I don’t really agree with all their recommendations but worth a read if you are interested in the topic of housing provision.
    More ‘affordable’ housing provision is certainly needed, but I think also a more diverse portfolio of developers is required (pension funds for example)

  2. savepenrhos says:

    Affordable housing is a joke. Where I work, a couple both working full-time cannot afford ‘affordable’ housing. In fact not even if they were both team leaders would they be earning enough to purchase an ‘affordable’ 2-bed terraced. It’s just a rather sick joke. Affordable housing for purchase should be priced according to National Minimum Wages.

    What’s needed is social housing for rent – hundreds of thousands of units.

    By far and away the most stupid thing this country ever did was the ‘Right To Buy’.

  3. james says:

    Christ the government is NOT demonising people in social housing – just tilting more in favour of current homeowners.

    Here’s something – if Labour were REALLY interested in cheaper homes they

    a) wouldn’t have let the rich run riot in the 13 years while in power
    b) would have built a lot more when they were in power
    c) wouldn’t have turned a blind eye to the lax lending of multiples
    d) wouldn’t have allowed the housing bubble

    As it’s this government that has to pick up the pieces of these iniquitous policies – they could a) spend money we don’t have on millions of homes and allow a slump in house prices ie 30% capital depreciations with all the social costs that creates not to mention benefit speanding and get about 10% at the next election or b) do what’s being done now and allow a soft landing with supporting more social housing than Labour did and guarantee the shortfall in deposits,

    Yes, it’s tough – but Labour are like the people that trash the house at a party then the next day moan about how the clear ups going.

    I take it someone on LU can point me in the direction where Labour have costed a million new homes with the new planning rules that are required to quickly build them?

  4. Richard T says:

    ” as we all know, the answer is to build new social housing ”

    I love these leaps of logic.

    We all know we need more affordable housing, it’s far from obvious that the best route to this is through new formally subsidised stock.

    For one thing, as the IEA tirelessly points out, the key roadblock to affordability is the planning regime.

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