The National Housing Federation released a report last October titled Broken Markets, Broken Dream which concluded that the East Midlands “is not building enough new homes to keep up with demand.” Indeed, according to their figures, simply keeping pace with housing demand in Leicester requires that at least 1,400 new housing units are constructed each year.
Given that the construction of affordable housing has been an urgent priority for Leicester, many would have previously welcomed the Labour Council’s 2008 not-too-ambitious target of committing to build 790 affordable housing units annually. But owing to cuts, the Council never came close to achieving these targets.
In fact, as noted in the June 2014 briefing report by the Council’s lead on housing, Ann Branson: “the current predicted output [of affordable housing units] for 2015/18 is estimated at 160 per annum compared with the average 200 achieved per annum over the last 7 years.” This is a evidently a major problem, which is compounded by the Council’s own recent admission, where they pointed out that:
“The Leicester and Leicestershire Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2014 identified that Leicester’s net affordable housing need is 496 additional homes per year for the next 25 years to meet current and future demand from households who cannot afford to enter the private housing market.”
Therefore it seems more than clear that Labour has no answer to solving Leicester’s housing crisis. Tragically there were 9,223 household on the housing register in April 2012, a figure which rose to 10,549 by last October, and seems only likely to go up in the years ahead.
In a desperate social climate of increasing unemployment and poverty, where there is already a massive waiting list for council housing — a problem exacerbated by the ongoing sale of council houses — it is obvious to all (with the exception of all the mainstream political party’s including Labour, the Tories, the Lib Dem’s and UKIP) that handing over further control of the housing market to the private sector is far from sane.
This is why I support the demands of Unite the union’s housing workers in raising the need to return to the idea of council housing, and to bring an end to the ‘right to buy scheme’ which only serves to remove homes from the council stock. This would help ensure that decent secure housing can once again be a right for all.
If the profiteering house-builders say they can’t or won’t build the high quality and affordable homes we need, then why not take action? Politicians would need to take them into democratic public ownership. Of course we could pay compensation – but only on the basis of proven need and not to the fat-cat shareholders.
Likewise, following the example of Unite’s housing workers, I would support their calls to nationalise the banking sector so these immense resources could be used to finance socially necessary projects such as decent housing. TUSC would give the 99% a voice in parliament by acting in their interest – not pander to the greed of the super-rich 1%.