There are not enough houses.
I’ve tried to start this blog ten times or more, but it all comes back to that. There are not enough houses. Everyone blames someone different for it, everyone has a different solution to it, but it all comes back to the same thing: there are not enough houses.
You don’t have to look far to find the effects. Rents are sky-high. House prices are higher still. 4.9 million families cannot afford one or the other and need help to house themselves. There isn’t even close to enough social housing to provide for them, so the state foots a housing benefit bill of nearly £17 billion a year to private landlords, many of whose properties are in an embarrassing state of disrepair.
For many, many of my generation, buying a home of their own is a distant pipe dream, or an impossibility.
As I said, everyone has their different thoughts on the causes and solutions. My own are that the myth that this country is overcrowded has made us scared to build, and the solution is a housebuilding program the likes of which would make the post-war boom seem paltry.
One solution which I haven’t heard mooted before is to sell off what little social housing we have. And yet that’s the one which the Conservative manifesto is putting forward.
Only last night I was talking to a member of the Labour Party in Southend about housing in the borough. Fourteen years of Conservative rule saw not a single new council house built — and all the while the housing crisis grew worse. Since the Thatcher government sold off social housing stock on mass and foolishly failed to invest the proceeds in new housing to replace what was lost.
I’m not going to pretend that the new social housing secured by Labour after only a few weeks in power in Southend well since the problem alone, but I remain convinced that it signals a chance in attitude. Under the new joint administration, steered by Cllrs Ian Gilbert and David Norman, Southend Borough Council is taking housing provision seriously.
And this is extending to the private sector too. The announcement of a plan by developers Randall Watts to build 27 houses on a disused brownfield site — 100% of which to be affordable, housing association homes.
The plan goes before the Development Control (“Planning”) Committee tomorrow, so it’s not a done deal. But it is a good sign, there’s no escaping that. The solution has to be a combination of outgoing of public and private, and the public has been neglected for too long. The fact, though, that the private sector too is recognising the need for homes that people can afford to live in.
In May, Labour promised we would build housing. In July those promises are already being delivered.