New Council Housing proposal

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Wednesday 4 August 2010 4.52am
No, not a proposal for new council housing - that's not the way things work any more, unfortunately.

I was just wondering whether people in Bermondsey & Old Southwark knew when they voted Lib Dem that they were voting for this: Lifetime Council Tenancies to be scrapped (Guardian)

As the Pistols said "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"
Wednesday 4 August 2010 9.21am
Several interesting books have been published recently that try to cut through the ideological fog that has been created around the idea of council housing. Lynsey Hanley's 'Estates' and Sarah Glynn's 'Where the Other Half Lives' both remind us that it is only very recently that what was built and maintained as public housing has come to be described as 'council' housing. Why the change of description is important, they argue, is that the change obscures the fact that council housing is truly public housing and anyone can apply to live there.

Not only this, they argue, and this can clearly be seen in the case of the Heygate and the decant, council housing can also be portrayed by it's detractors as places where only the poor live, vandalised, riddled with crime and unsafe. Often this argument is used to pretend that what is needed is demolition and the introduction of a 'mixed community', a code phrase for less public housing and more private housing. This also obscures how local council disinvestment in their public housing and failure to repair is a more likely reason for shoddy estates.

A society that invests in good quality and diverse public housing available to all seems like a great idea. Just like the health service. We don't ask better-off people who need emergency brain surgery to pay out a load of cash just because they are more wealthy. The British love of the institution of the NHS could also be applied to its own public housing stock. In such a way the ever increasing gap between haves and have-nots could be reduced and we could begin to have a society that cares about everyone and not just those who supposedly and meritocratically get'ahead'(of everyone else!)
Wednesday 4 August 2010 9.23am
To be fair, Phil, it's not the Lib Dems' policy. It's Cameron's policy. It's unreasonable to berate the LDs for every policy that the Govt makes which doesn't fit in with the LD manifesto.

A more reasonable approach might be to congratulate them if/when they manage to either get any of their policies passed, or temper or turn back any of the Conservative policies.

I doubt any Conservative voters are surprised, or feel cheated, by the policy. Seems like pretty "normal" Conservative thinking to me.

[and shouldn't this be in Chatter?]

...if you press it, they will come.
Wednesday 4 August 2010 10.11am
Cheers folks.

I wasn't sure where to put it, Ivanhoe - I plumped for SE1 Discussion on the grounds that it was about an SE1 constituency and, as borough with an exceptionally high proportion of council housing, there would be a lot of SE1 folk affected, but no problems here.

Merlin - lots of interesting points. In general, I think I'd much rather have the security of tenure and accountability of a council tenancy than pouring money into the pockets of a private landlord or a mortgage company. However, I recognise that I'm so far off being a priority case that it's not even worth bothering to apply - or fair to people in more need.

Ivanhoe - I'm not complaining that the policy wasn't in the LibDem manifesto. I'm old enough to know that incoming governments never feel bound by their manifesto.

Isn't the whole coalition government bound by collective responsibility? Which makes government policy that of the Torys and LibDems. If the LibDems don't like it, they can walk. The fact that they don't makes it their policy too.

In the spirit of reasonableness, here's some LibDem policies that I welcome and are being delivered - No third runway, no ID cards, a move towards taking the low paid out of income tax.

Having said that, unless he starts making some noise and creating some opposition, I can see Mr Hughes having a really tough time on the hustings at the next election.
Wednesday 4 August 2010 12.18pm
A few points which are never considered when the discussion about council housing comes onto public agendas is:

How are all these homes affordable? is it through subsidy from the government? where does the government get the money from? is it the tax payer? Who pays for the taxpayers homes while they are subsidising other people's homes? Is it fair therefore that those who work hard to pay taxes and pay for their own homes should subsidise housing for other people for life? What would happen if all the people who work to subsidise council housing also decide that they would prefer to live in subidised housing, stop working and demand to be housed by the council. How will we finance that? who will pay for the building of new council homes?the same tax payers? how do we square this circle. Everyone would like to help people in need in whatever way we can but why does it have be done forever. Shouldn't it be according to need. the rpivate sector have no security of tenure, whether they are renting or own their home. Why is it fair that they should finance at infinitum the security of tenure for people in council homes?
Wednesday 4 August 2010 12.54pm
Merlin Rouge wrote:
Why the change of description is important, they argue, is that the change obscures the fact that council housing is truly public housing and anyone can apply to live there.
Not only this, they argue, and this can clearly be seen in the case of the Heygate and the decant, council housing can also be portrayed by it's detractors as places where only the poor live, vandalised, riddled with crime and unsafe.

I'd agree with you, in theory. Compared to the poorly-built little boxes that make up the private housing sector, the LA housing that I've seen is palatial.

I'd love a chance at living in it, but having a half-way decent household income (basically meaning that more than one adult is working and earning avge wage) means that you've got no chance of ever getting into LA housing (unless things have changed a lot since I last looked at the criteria - which, granted, was some years ago when I first came to SE1).

...if you press it, they will come.
Wednesday 4 August 2010 1.04pm
Rambling Phil wrote:
Isn't the whole coalition government bound by collective responsibility? Which makes government policy that of the Torys and LibDems. If the LibDems don't like it, they can walk. The fact that they don't makes it their policy too.

That's a harsh view, isn't it, Phil? Unless you're saying that the coalition govt. should enact policies which are part-way between each of their views (which would just make everyone unhappy, and could lead to ridiculous policies).

I'd seen coalition politics more as horse-trading. Both parties stand for different things, so they agree that Party A can put one bill through on the condition that Party B can put another bill through.

I suppose that the reality is somewhere between those two views. Party A gets to put a bill through, but Party B might get to tweak it a little.

I don't think that you can really say that the LDs should leave the govt. at the first sign of a policy being enacted that they don't wholeheartedly approve of. Wouldn't that lead to an election every few months (or a govt. which doesn't pass any bills)?

[hope you didn't think I was being "off" about the thread starting in SE1. Didn't mean it to come across that way. Sorry if it did.]

...if you press it, they will come.
Wednesday 4 August 2010 3.07pm
Should this move back to SE1 now that Simon has become the "Voice of the Backbenches" again on the issue?

Though he's only "seeking clarification" so far, which is one step down from his stage 2 state of alert, "expressing concern".
Wednesday 4 August 2010 3.34pm
So many questions. Some easily answered, some just raising more questions. Here we go...

How are all these homes affordable? is it through subsidy from the government? where does the government get the money from? is it the tax payer?
The state can provide housing cheaper than the private sector for the following reasons.
a) It can borrow money to build cheaper than the private sector can, so its financing costs are lower.
b) By being a mass provider of housing (far and away the largest), it can get economies of scale from its suppliers, or even run its own direct labour organisations.
c) It doesn't need to take a rake off for 'profit'.

"Who pays for the taxpayers homes while they are subsidising other people's homes? Is it fair therefore that those who work hard to pay taxes and pay for their own homes should subsidise housing for other people for life?"
At some points in your life, you will need others help. Other tax payers paid for my state education when I was too young to work. When I am old and sick, I will need help again. In the meantime, now that I've a reasonably well-paid job (based on other people's investment in my education), I'm quite happy to pay progressive tax to support the lame, young, old and unfortunate. Currently, if they're not in social housing, we're subsidising private landlords to house them - I know which I'd rather be subsidising the social housing sector.

What's your alternative suggestion for how such people should live? In the streets? In the sort of conditions that Orwell described in Lambeth and Southwark? Workhouses?

People earning enough should be paying an amount of rent that covers the cost, over the lifetime of the building, of its construction, maintenance and financing, maybe with a bit more to help pay for more housing provision. No subsidy there, but no profit either.

"What would happen if all the people who work to subsidise council housing also decide that they would prefer to live in subidised housing, stop working and demand to be housed by the council. How will we finance that?"

What would happen if everyone who owns more houses than they need decided to open them up to people who need them more? It's no more going to happen than your conjecture.

Most people want to work. It gives us dignity, a social context and a productive way to fill our days. The money we can earn gives us choices over more things than housing provider. I'm sorry that your experience of work must have been so overwhelmingly negative.

"Who will pay for the building of new council homes?the same tax payers? how do we square this circle."
See earlier - borrow in order to build assets (houses and flats) that secure an income stream (rent) sufficient to cover costs without needing to supply profit. Borrowing to invest in a productive asset is usually approved of when individuals or private companies do it. Why should it be different for the government?

"Everyone would like to help people in need in whatever way we can but why does it have be done forever?"
Sometimes, reading right wing bloggers, I'm not sure that's true. And the reason that it sometimes has to be forever is that sometimes people are ill or feeble for their whole life. As an alternative, would you recommend gas chambers or hunting with dogs?

Anyway, social housing needs to be mixed. The quickest way to cement further an underclass would be to create ghettos where young people grow up without seeing the benefits that doing an honest days work can do and whose only role models are the feckless, the underachieving and the dishonest. Is that what you want?

"Shouldn't it be according to need?"
Ideally, your choice of landlord should be about choice - you do believe in that, don't you? It must be about need at the moment because of the dire shortage of council housing created by the Tory policy of selling off the better properties, and the lack of building action by the New Labour government.

the private sector have no security of tenure, whether they are renting or own their home. Why is it fair that they should finance at infinitum the security of tenure for people in council homes?
That's just as much an argument for increasing the security of tenure in the private sector as for decreasing it for the public. Perhaps we should bring back the sort of long term tenancies that the 1988 Housing Act replaced with the six or twelve month Shorthold Assured Tenancy.

Assuming you think that security of tenure is a good thing, what you are saying is that one sector has more of the good thing than the other so what we ought to do is take the good thing from that sector rather than seek to grant more of the good thing to the people who have less.


So, from your questions, I think I can detect the following views:
a) only the feckless live in council housing
b) social housing should be a ghetto of the deprived and even then only a time-limited basis
c) people who do not own their own home do not deserve security of tenure.
Is that about right?

Please read Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London" to get some idea of what life was like in our neighbourhood in the absence of decent collective provision.
Wednesday 4 August 2010 3.41pm
Ivanhoe wrote:
Rambling Phil wrote:
Isn't the whole coalition government bound by collective responsibility? Which makes government policy that of the Torys and LibDems. If the LibDems don't like it, they can walk. The fact that they don't makes it their policy too.
...
I don't think that you can really say that the LDs should leave the govt. at the first sign of a policy being enacted that they don't wholeheartedly approve of. Wouldn't that lead to an election every few months (or a govt. which doesn't pass any bills)?

[hope you didn't think I was being "off" about the thread starting in SE1. Didn't mean it to come across that way. Sorry if it did.]

Hi Ivanhoe - I didn't think you were being 'off'. I was genuinely unsure where to put the comment and it was early in the morning.

I wasn't saying that the LibDems should walk out at the first sign etc.... But the longer they are there, the more complicit they are in everything the Tories do. We'll see how that plays out locally.
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